Clavell Tower

Kimmeridge, Wareham, Dorset


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 writers including Hardy and PD James.

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • MicrowaveMicrowave
  • RemoteRemote
  • ShowerShower

Beds 1 Double

4 nights from
£664 equivalent to £83.00 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 sight 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


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Supporters of Clavell Tower

We are hugely grateful to those who have supported Clavell Tower , including:

Patrons and other generous individuals:

The Mansel Family, Mr T Syder, Mr M Wieliczko


Mrs J Heels, Mrs D Wray Bliss

Charitable Trusts and Statutory Grants:

John S Cohen Foundation, Country Houses Foundation, Ernest Cook Trust, Cookson Charitable Trust, The Dorset Foundation, Anthony du Boulay Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, The February Foundation, Mercers' Company, The Pitt-Rivers Charity, The Valentine Trust.

Dorset County Council

Heritage Lottery Fundy Logo                                                                            

We would also like to thank those who have chosen to remain anonymous, and the many other donors who supported the appeal.

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, providing lots of opportunities for walks along the coastline and bays to spot fossils and wildlife.

Discover more about the nearby coastal town of Swanage by visiting its museum and take a trip on its very own heritage steam railway to explore the surrounding area and visit the ancient ruins of Corfe Castle.

Learn more about Dorset's rich archaeology and rural heritage at the Dorset County Museum, about a 25 mile drive from Clavell Tower.

Discover local walks for dogs with our friends at, the dog walks community. For more information on things to do during your stay at Clavell Tower, please see our Pinterest page.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Clear directions
Essential info
What you need to know about this building
  • Yes. You are welcome to bring up to two dogs. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if you have an assistance dog, for which there is no charge.
  • On foot via the steep coastal path (approximately 250m).
  • Wareham – 8 miles
  • Yes there is one car parking space approximately 250m away at the bottom of the cliff.
  • There are electric night storage heaters, underfloor heating.
  • To check up-to-date mobile network coverage in the area, visit* Due to the location and structure of many of our buildings, signal strength may differ to those indicated.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc.
    There is also an electric cooker and microwave.
  • There is one bathroom with a shower.
  • On arrival at the Tower, we advise you access the building from the basement door. There is another entrance up cantilevered steps to a raised ground floor level but  there are no handrails or balustrades so should only be used at your own risk  The internal stairs are steep, narrow and spiral. 
  • There are open grounds (the cliffs are very steep and unfenced).
  • Yes, access to Clavell Tower is by foot only.  It is approximately 250 metres from the car parking area via a very steep exposed coastal path with numerous steps. You are strongly advised to bring luggage in rucksacks, not suitcases, stout footwear (eg walking boots) and at least two working torches.   Due to the difficult access to this property we would not recommend it for people with respiratory or cardiovascular problems.
  • No, there is no access to the roof or the first floor peristyle.
  • 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. Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
Booking and Payment
  • If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • 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.
  • The key arrangements will be included in the Further Infomation document which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • If your stay starts more than two 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 and The Bunk House at Llwyn Celyn must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • Our housekeeper will leave the key in a suitable place, the details of which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • 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.
  • No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • 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!
Staying at a Landmark
  • 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 on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.  Further information on access when visiting Lundy can also be found here.
  • Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • 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
  • 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. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if a registered assistance dog is supporting one of the guests, for which there is no charge.
  • Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • 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.
  • We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • 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.
  • 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). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visiting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
  • Landmark’s electrical systems have not been designed to provide continuous power from one socket over several hours.  If an ordinary socket is used to charge an electric vehicle, there is significant risk of an electrical fire and consequent danger to life.  Therefore, we are unable to allow electric vehicle charging from most of our Landmarks at present.

    We are working to provide Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge points at our properties where there is private parking.  Where this is available, please request this facility when booking the property to ensure the outlet is enabled on your arrival.  There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.  Please book this facility in advance.
  • No, we do not allow smoking in any Landmark.
  • 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.
  • Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival. Except for the Llwyn Celyn Bunkhouse.
  • 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.
  • Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
  • A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. Hairdryers are provided.

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 metres 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. 

For a short history of Clavell Tower please click here.

To read the full history album for Clavell Tower please click here.


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.

Supporters of Clavell Tower 

We are hugely grateful to those who supported the restoration of Clavell Tower, including:

Patrons and other generous supporters:

The Mansel Family, Mr T Syder, Mr M Wieliczko


Mrs J Heels, Mrs D Wray Bliss

Charitable Trusts and Foundations:   

John S Cohen Foundation, Country Houses Foundation, Ernest Cook Trust, Cookson Charitable Trust, The Dorset Foundation, Anthony du Boulay Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, The February Foundation, Mercers' Company, The Pitt-Rivers Charity, The Valentine Trust 

Statutory Grants: 

Heritage Lottery Fund, Dorset County Council                                                                                                                                                  

We would also like to thank those who have chosen to remain anonymous, and the many other donors who supported the appeal.

Availability & booking

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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.