A great deal hung on the outcome of that battle. The Hanoverian kings had been on the throne for just over thirty years. The first, a German, George I had been succeeded by the more English George II. His family were now regarded as fully representative of the Protestant Whig supremacy that under Sir Robert Walpole had made England a prosperous and stable place. The only cloud on the horizon was the possibility of a new Jacobite rising, carrying with it fears that had lain dormant since James II was deposed in 1688; the fear of a Catholic king who would threaten his subjects' freedom of religious worship and, it was somehow felt, deprive them of their ability to profit by trade as well.
The battle was fiercely fought and the victorious Duke became known as Butcher Cumberland for his order to kill the wounded Jacobite soldiers in its aftermath, but the Jacobite cause was now a spent force, no longer supported even by the traditionally loyal Tories. The Whig Augustan world could continue unchallenged, trade could increase, the New World triumph over the Old, the Classical over the Gothic, a point that was made in the interior decoration and arrangement of the Culloden Tower itself. Here, Gothic motifs are found in the tall main room, but set within an orderly Classical framework and the scheme in the topmost room is entirely Classical.
The Tower replaced an earlier one, and the design of its exterior reminds us of this. A pele tower, called Hudswell's Tower, stood here from the 14th century until the 17th century. Its ruin may still have been visible when the Culloden Tower was built, to be commemorated in the square base of its very different successor.
The Culloden Tower was built by John Yorke. He held the family seat in Parliament until his death, in 1757. He was a Whig, but an independent one, who was known to vote against the Government at times. Lord Egmont described him as "a whimsical fellow but in the main will be with Government". He was most certainly "with" the Hanoverians, and the prosperity which they brought to his town.
Apart from showing off the builder's political affiliations, the Culloden Tower was of course intended as an ornament, crowning the hill opposite the town and acting as a foil to the castle's greater tower. It stood in the park of a large mansion called Yorke House after the family that lived there. This stood close to the river at the foot of the hill with its gardens around it. A fine view of these, and of the town and surrounding countryside, would have been enjoyed by anyone in the Tower. With its comfortable and elegant rooms, each provided with a fireplace, the Tower would also have been a place where the Yorke family could enjoy some privacy, away from their large household.
The presumed architect of the tower, Daniell Garrett, began his career as a follower of the Earl of Burlington, the great champion of the Palladian style of architecture. He went on to develop his own practice in the North-East, designing some rather dull Palladian houses which tend to confirm the judgement of the Architect-Earl, that he was more a man of business than of aesthetics. Garrett also had an extraordinary talent for the design of Rococo plasterwork and, as an extension of this, for the Rococo-Gothick in all its forms. His career in this field reached its highest point of fantasy in the Banqueting House at Gibside, Co. Durham, a building for which there is no equal anywhere. It, too, has been restored by the Landmark Trust.
Yorke House was demolished in 1823, after which the park, and the Culloden Tower, became attached to Temple View, a house some distance to the North. This had started life as a Gothic Menagerie, built by the last John Yorke in 1769. The tower was used less and less, especially in this century, when such buildings have become increasingly difficult to maintain. Although it is widely visible, it is also curiously isolated, which has led to more problems. Thieves stole the lead from the roof, and the asphalt that replaced it leaked and caused dry rot. More recently, vandals did appalling and systematic damage so that little of its interior remained intact. It was in the nick of time that the Landmark Trust came to its rescue in 1981.
For a short history of Culloden Tower please click here.
To read the full history album for Culloden Tower please click here.
To download the children's Explorer pack for Culloden Tower please click here.