Belfast Telegraph

Historic hilltop tower, several previous owners ...yours for just £15,000

By Philip Baillie

Standing just 30ft high, this Victorian miniature tower has stood as a beacon on the Co Down coast for more than 150 years. And now it is hoped the Isabella tower will remain for another 150 years after it went on the market for a bargain £15,000.

Its owner has just put the historic little building up for sale on the internet.

Perched on a hill just outside Ardglass, the tower was built by local landlord Aubrey William Beauclerk (inset) in 1851 for his sickly daughter.

The hill where the tower stands has provided respite for a travelling king, reputedly cured a girl of tuberculosis and safeguarded a colourfully decorated burial urn for thousands of years. Now its tower will be opening a new chapter in its rich history.

Current landowner Sean Caughey (53) bought the site containing the tower in 1999 with the intention of building on it or using it as a caravan site. He was denied building permission, subsequently deciding to sell it by listing it on the Gumtree website, a network for online classifieds.

He said a few potential buyers have already made offers for the site, which is described as an ideal setting for artists, environmentalists or holidaymakers.

Despite its heritage, no-one has expressed interest in making use of the tower so far.

With windows open to the four main points of the compass, the tower boasts panoramic views from Portaferry to Strangford and down to the Ardglass seafront.

The 27 foot-high and 18 foot-wide structure was originally built as a gazebo for Isabella, who was suffering from tuberculosis. According to records, the retreat served its purpose as Isabella survived, later marrying George Palatiano, a sergeant-major from Corfu, in 1867.

Yet local historian Albert Colmer says records show the site has even older historic ties.

It is believed to be the site where King John of England stopped on the night of July 12, 1210 before going into battle in Downpatrick during a military campaign in Ireland.

It was not until the mid 1850s the Beauclerk family inherited the site, as it passed down through generations linking back to the Kildare estates.

In the latter part of the 19th century a colourfully decorated urn, containing bones dating back to the bronze age, were discovered in the foundations of the tower.

“Historians are trying to track down the location of the finds from Northern Irish museums,” Mr Colmer added.

But in the last number of years the tower has fallen into disrepair.

“The site should be preserved in the best interests of the people of Ardglass, and hopefully someone will take it over and bring it back to its former glory,” Mr Colmer said. “It is very sad to see the windows and the doors off, and it is sad to see it in such a poor state.

“The site has such a wealth of history attached to it and I would very much like to see it preserved. Perhaps the council would like to take it over,” he added.

Kieran Mageean (27), whose family home was located next to the tower and lived in the area for more than 20 years said: “When there was a route onto the area a lot of people would have visited the tower. It has now been boarded up and has been left in ruins and the place has been trashed.”

Isabella tower has been a B1 listed building since 1978.

Timeline

1210 King John of England marches through Lecale with his army, stopping at Jordan de Sackville's castle, thought to be where Isabella tower stands today.

1851 Aubrey William Beauclerk builds a tower for his sickly daughter, Isabella.

1985 The tower is leased to the Admiralty and used as a Coastguard station

1908 Estate is sold off to various individual proprietors

1978 Tower is given Grade B1 listed building status.

1999 Bought by Sean Caughey and currently in disrepair

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph