James Harrison was a wealthy Liverpool shipbuilder who lived in Hare Appletree, near Quernmore. To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, he did two things. In a fit of patriotism he lit a beacon on nearby Clougha Pike on the date of the Jubilee, making a precarious assent in his pony and trap. His second deed was rather more enduring- he commissioned a local mason to build a folly view tower. The mason was called Gifford and he had also worked on nearby Quernmore church and chapel. His work endures to today, and the tower is well worth a visit.
For almost a century the tower remained in private hands, but in 1973 it was donated by a Mr Adam Leigh also of Hare Appletree to Lancashire County Council. The council set about building a large car park across from it, and in the course of doing so the enigmatic Quernmore Dark Age burial was discovered (see here). The remains of the burial can be viewed today in Lancaster City Museum.
Over the next few years the tower stonework was repointed, the handrail on the stairs fixed and the platform itself restored into good order by the council. It remains a popular place for both walkers and drivers today, with its spectacular vistas in all directions.
On visiting the folly we see a square block shaped building with castle like crenellations on the roof. It does not appear to have an inside to it as there are no windows or doors visible. Perhaps interior rooms would have weakened the structure, so we are looking at what is probably solid stone blocks, all the way through.
On the side facing the road, low down you can see a small metal plaque with OS BM 10825. This stands for Ordnance Survey Bench Mark which was used to measure height above sea level. This was part of the national system to record and measure the height of the land throughout Britain. The one here is classed as a ‘flush bracket’ and 10825 is its unique identification number. The tower stands at 950 feet above sea level.
Just before you climb the steps to the top, look up and see the stone plaque carved into the structure. It says “This tower was erected by James Harrison of Hare Appletree in commemoration of the Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Victoria ANNO DOMINI 1887”.
This was built to be a viewing tower, and so here is some of what can be seen: Face out to sea and look at the great views of Lancaster close by, with Heysham and its power station beyond. To your right, looking north on a clear day shows the Lake District and it’s southern mountains. Behind you is Hare Appletree Fell and a path up to Clougha Pike. The road to your left will take you to the Trough of Bowland, a fantastic drive through this designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is a well built platform, and in its over a hundred years of existence must have withstood some extremes of weather in this exposed spot. Snow, hail, wind and rain have all driven against it, but at over a hundred and twenty years old it’s still looking in good shape.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2016
The tower and car park are open all year round. Look out for the plaque in the car park for the Quernmore burial (read more about that here). The easiest way to reach the car park is to follow Wyresdale Road from Williamson Park in Lancaster which will take you straight there. If you are coming from another direction then the postcode for the monument on the Visit Lancashire website is LA2 9HJ- but navigate with a road map as well ! The tower is also marked on Google Maps.
Ivory Towers and Dressed Stones Vol 1: Lancashire, Jim Jarratt (1994), Cicerone Press
Lancashire’s Fair Face, Jessica Lofthouse (1976), Robert Hale and Company: London
https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/benchmarks/ (accessed 25/10/16)
http://www.bench-marks.org.uk/bm711 (accessed 25/10/16)