Public must be allowed to visit historic tower

Chris Burke

The manager of Hadlow Tower Visitor Centre has raised hopes that the public will still have access to the unique property even after it is sold.

Caroline Elcombe has spent the past six months negotiating with the property’s liquidators after the Vivat Trust, the owners of the folly, went into liquidation last year.

The charity, which specialised in renting out historic properties, had previously managed to secure funding from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery to carry out a £4.2million restoration of the historic 19th century Grade I listed ­Victorian tower.

Under the terms of its restoration, it had been open to the public 28 days a year. The tower also offers tourist accommodation for six people, which was suspended when the owners went into administration.

The landmark was briefly administered by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council after it served a compulsory purchase order on it in 2006.

It then sold the tower, which was badly in need of restoration at the time, to the Vivat Trust for £1.

The site had originally been owned by industrialist Walter May, and is reportedly the tallest Victorian folly in the country, at 175ft. Property consultant Eddisons, which is overseeing the sale of the tower, has not specified a guide price because of its unique character.

Ms Elcombe, who resumes her role ­managing the visitor centre this week, said: “I’m very hopeful there will still be some public access to the building even when it is sold.

“There are a lot of people in the area who care about it, and I led the action group to save it for a while as well.

“After months of trying, I’ve managed to get a licence to continue opening it once a week for the public.

“If it were sold to a private buyer who did not keep it open, then my understanding is that they’d have to pay back some of the heritage lottery funding.”

Nicolas Heslop, Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, added: “I was delighted to see Hadlow Tower so ­beautifully restored with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Vivat Trust for the community, but the council doesn’t have a role to play in the future of the tower.

Hadlow Tower (pictured) reopens tomorrow (Thursday June 9). For more information visit

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