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The view from Alfred's Tower

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Image: David Abbott

Alfred's Tower stands near the spot where, in AD 878, Alfred rallied the men of Wessex to resist invasion and a descent into rapine, pillage, misery, loss and a forgetting of loveliness.

A spiral staircase of 205 steps takes you to the top. The Tower was photographed a few weeks ago, on the only grey day in a span of sunny weeks. It was built at Stourhead in 1765 by Henry Hoare II.

Hoare, now famous for his house and gardens, loved Alfred and the freedom and independence, education and law he gave England. The depressing National Trust sign outside the Tower claims that Hoare was just trying to impress his neighbours. The architect of the triangular tower was Henry Flitcroft.

"Alfred's Tower is a monument to the genius of English landscape, many of whose loveliest haunts it commands, and to a man who certainly deserves to be remembered as among the great benefactors of the English scene." Christopher Hussey, Country Life, 11th June 1938.

Gazing across the centuries, Alfred would have rejoiced at the number of men and women of talent who found opportunity in England. "Henry Flitcroft (1697 – 1769) came from a simple background: his father was a labourer in the gardens at Hampton Court and he began as a joiner by trade. Working as a carpenter at Burlington House, he fell from a scaffold and broke his leg. While he was recuperating, the young Lord Burlington noticed his talent with the pencil, and by 1720 Flitcroft was Burlington's draughtsman and general architectural assistant, surveying at Westminster School for Burlington's dormitory, and superintending at the site at Tottenham House. . ." Flitcroft went on to design major commissions, at Stowe, Stourhead, Wimbourne House, Wimpole Hall and London. (Wiki)

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