Clavell Tower

Kimmeridge, Wareham, Dorset - Sleeps 2

About this Landmark

This four storey circular tower stands high on the cliff overlooking one of the most striking bays on the Dorset coast. Built in 1830 its location has captivated many including writers like Hardy and PD James.

Dog Beds 1 Double

  • Sleeps2
  • 4 nights from £428
  • equivalent to £53.50 per person per night

A cliff top retreat

The location of Clavell Tower makes this an extraordinary place to stay. High up on the cliff at Kimmeridge Bay the tower enables you to witness the changing light, weather and sea from your cosy eyrie. The tower is known to many who have walked past its door along the South West Coastal Path.  

You too must walk, for ten minutes or so, up to the tower leaving your car below but the effort will be worth it. Clavell is four-storey tower, with each room on a different floor. The bedroom, on the first floor, has a door onto a balcony that encircles the whole building.

Saved from the cliff edge

The geology of this coastline is at once a glory and a threat: it brought designation as a World Heritage site, but the friable Kimmeridge shales also cause gradual erosion for which there is no remedy. By 2002, Clavell Tower (which had stood empty and increasingly derelict since the Great War) was left perilously close to the edge of the crumbling cliff. Desperate remedies were needed if it was not to be lost forever.

We considered all the options, and were left with the difficult conclusion that the only feasible way to save the tower was to dismantle it and re-erect it on sounder footings, further back from the cliff’s edge, carefully positioned to capture as many of its original site lines within the landscape as possible. The result is at least as elegant as the original and has saved a well-loved local landmark. 

Floor Plans

LAND at Clavell Tower

By kind permission of the Smedmore Estate.

LAND comprises five life-size standing sculptures by Antony Gormley cast in iron and installed at five Landmark Trust sites across the UK for 12 months from 16 May 2015. The works have been conceived in direct response to each unique location.

The work overlooks the English Channel beside Clavell Tower, a folly built in 1830. 

‘We've seen the Tower as a ruin, a pile of stones, a shell, and a magnificent and triumphant pheonix - and now we have had the privilege of experiencing life here.’

From the logbook

Map & local info

Clavell Tower stands above Kimmeridge Bay overlooking a grand sweep of Dorset coastline. Here is the Jurassic Coast, England’s first natural World Heritage Site, and the South West Coastal Path runs past the door.

Clavell Tower
Kimmeridge, Wareham, Dorset - Sleeps 2
Clear directions

Places to visit nearby

Sherborne Castle

Jurrasic Coast

Swanage Musuem & Heritage Centre

Athelhampton House & Gardens

‘The best 'circular walk' we found, with the best views, starts and ends at the bedroom door!’

From the logbook

Your questions answered

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    On foot via the steep coastal path (approximately 250m).
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Wareham – 8 miles
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    Yes there is one car parking space approximately 250m away at the bottom of the cliff.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There are electric night storage heaters, underfloor heating and two gas fires.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc.
    There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a shower.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    The stairs are steep, narrow and spiral.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There are open grounds (the cliffs are very steep and unfenced).

    Booking and Payment

  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will advise you as to whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to carry out the changeover then we consider that it is open and available. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, which may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking.

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Is it true there are no televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s).

    Facilities

  • Are the kitchens and bathrooms restored to a modern standard?

    Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Is linen provided?

    Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival.
  • Are the kitchens fully equipped?

    Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Do you provide logs for the open fire/stove?

    Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Will there be a mobile signal in the Landmark I book?

    Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • Is there Wi-Fi in your buildings?

    No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
  • What should I bring with me? Are there lavatory rolls, soap, shampoo, milk, teabags, coffee, hairdryer?

    A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide lavatory rolls and a bar of soap, per basin but no other toiletries. We do not provide hairdryers.

An observatory, folly and navigation mark

Since 1830, Clavell Tower (listed Grade II) has stood sentinel on the Smedmore Estate above Kimmeridge Bay. It was built by the Reverend John Richards Clavell as an observatory and folly, and has served ever since as a feature in the landscape on this wide open sweep of coastline, familiar to all those who pass by it on the South West Coastal Path and to the sailors and smugglers who used it as a navigation mark.

The Smedmore Estate has been owned by the Clavell family since the 1420s (today, by marriage, the Mansels) and has been united with the manor of Kimmeridge since 1554. Its seat, Smedmore House, was built by Sir William Clavell in the early 17th century and added to during the 18th century. In 1774, George Clavell died without issue and the estate passed to his nephew, William Richards, on condition that he changed his name to Clavell. William had a younger brother, John, who went into the church and served quietly as rector for Church Knowle, Steeple and East Lulworth. In 1818, William too died without offspring and so Reverend John Richards inherited the Smedmore estate as William’s nearest kin at the age of 58. He too changed his surname to Clavell.

We know little about the Reverend Mr. Clavell. His signature appears faithfully through the decades in the various parish records and a silhouette of him at Smedmore House shows an unremarkable middle aged profile in a wig, at a date when such things were going out of fashion. He turned 70 in 1830 and it may have been this that prompted him to build his tower on the cliffs above Kimmeridge. An account in the Dorset County Chronicle for 21st July 1831 describes the newly completed tower as supposedly viewed from the fashionable Esplanade in Weymouth, calling it ‘as elegant a building as the county of Dorset can boast of.’ This article and building accounts held at Smedmore House also tell us that the builder of the tower was Robert Vining. Vining was a Weymouth man and associate of architect William Hamilton, with whom he built the Esplanade there in 1795 (Vining would also rebuild it after the Great Tempest of 1824). Robert Vining also built the octagonal Spa House at Nottington, just north of Weymouth, in the same year as Clavell Tower. The tower was built of very local materials, some even quarried from the estate or taken from the beds at Kimmeridge Bay.

The Reverend Mr. Clavell died in 1833 and the estate passed to his niece, Louisa Pleydell Mansel. Smedmore House became a happy family home through the next decades, the tower a destination for picnics and family expeditions (and courting couples – Thomas Hardy drew the tower as a frontispiece for his Wessex Poems and may well have courted his sweetheart Eliza Bright Nicholls here, the daughter of a Kimmeridge coastguard). From the 1880s until 1914 the tower served as lookout post for the coastguards but was then left empty and increasingly derelict. Meanwhile cliff erosion was taking its toll. Originally, it is said, a coach and four could be driven between the tower and the cliff’s edge, but the friable Kimmeridge shales are continuously crumbling away here at an average of 13 meters every century. By the late 1980s the tower was in real danger of falling off the edge. The Mansels set up the Clavell Tower Trust and English Heritage agreed to the principal of relocation, but the project proved beyond the Trust’s resources. In 2002, the Trust approached the Landmark Trust for help, whose Trustees gave cautious acceptance.

Dismantle the tower and rebuild back from the cliff edge

The tower’s proximity to the cliff’s edge meant that the project had particular urgency. Various solutions were carefully assessed, with the conclusion that the only way to save the tower was carefully to record and then dismantle it, and re-erect it further back from the cliff. Further consultation took place to determine the best position for reconstruction, one that both provided a sound footing and protected as many as possible of the original sitelines.

There followed four years of fundraising, during which time it became clear that the project could not proceed without major support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which was forthcoming late in 2005.

Work therefore began in Spring 2006 with contractors Carrek of Wells. The access track was put in and meticulous recording undertaken using rectified photography. The tower was fully scaffolded and dismantling began. The tower was marked into quadrants, and each piece was numbered and inventoried and then stored in wooden crates, which soon covered the surrounding site. Analysis of the fabric confirmed that most of the tower’s materials came from very local sources, which helped in the selection of replacements.

Once the colonnade and outer drum were down, the new foundations were dug and filled with concrete on the new site, and the new tower began slowly to rise. The old foundations have been left in situ to record the tower’s original position, at least for now.  Carrek’s masons moved on site to carve the many new pieces of stone required, since many pieces were missing through plunder or decay. We consulted Robert Vining’s Spa House at Nottington for internal joinery details that were lost. The old tower had been coated in Roman Cement, a hard hydraulic cement made using septarian nodules that sets through chemical reaction and was commonly used in maritime situations at the time. Today, Roman Cement is no longer available but can be closely matched with a hydraulic lime hydrate and trials were conducted through the winter to find the best mix. The aggregate used in this render has the advantage of being pleasantly self-coloured.

The approach used to save Clavell Tower represents conservation at its most intrusive and it is not a methodology to be undertaken lightly. Today, Clavell Tower’s position as land- and seamark on this World Heritage Site coastline is once more assured. Its new foundations and careful reconstruction mean that moving it intact would be an easier process should this become necessary again, but it is estimated that such a need should not arise for at least another two hundred years.

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

QuestionWhat's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.