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Prospect tower 230m south of King's School

A Scheduled Monument in Bruton, Somerset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.1082 / 51°6'29"N

Longitude: -2.453 / 2°27'10"W

OS Eastings: 368384.480001

OS Northings: 134418.262001

OS Grid: ST683344

Mapcode National: GBR MX.BJB9

Mapcode Global: VH8BG.FDKT

Entry Name: Prospect tower 230m south of King's School

Scheduled Date: 14 February 1953

Last Amended: 20 July 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019895

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33720

County: Somerset

Civil Parish: Bruton

Built-Up Area: Bruton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset

Details

The monument includes a prospect tower, prominently situated on the summit of
Lusty Hill, an isolated hill with commanding views over the surrounding
countryside, on the south side of Bruton. The building, which is Listed Grade
II*, is considered to date from the late 15th century to the early 16th
century and may originally have served a monastic purpose as part of the
holdings of the abbey at Bruton. By the 17th century, however, it appears to
have been converted for use as a prospect tower, probably by the Berkeley
family who built a mansion in the grounds of the abbey following its
dissolution in 1539. Landowners erected prospect towers, usually isolated
buildings with commanding views, as a demonstration of their wealth and
holdings. Constructed from local rubble-stone with Doulting stone dressings in
three stories, the tower is 6sq m in plan with a mud and rubble floor. It has
surviving gable ends with finials on three sides and part of the gable
survives on the fourth, south side. The tower had window openings at the
middle level of each of the four faces and an arched doorway on the south
west-facing wall. The tower was modified in the 17th century with the addition
of the present moulded cambered arched doorway in the north east-facing wall,
two-light chamfered mullion window openings at the two levels above it, and
one- or two-light window openings at each level of the other three faces. The
original doorway, and four of the window openings, including two of the
originals, have since been blocked.
The style of architecture of the original build of the tower suggests a date
of construction in the late 15th or early 16th century at a time when the land
was held by the Priory of Bruton (later to become the Abbey of Bruton) and it
is possible that the tower was built in 1511 at the time of the priory gaining
the status of an abbey. The probable existence of a tower building already on
the site may have prompted the conversion into a prospect tower during the
17th century at what is rather an early date for such a venture. It had been
considered by some commentators in the past that the tower was a dovecote
constructed to house the priory pigeons, but close examination of the
building's fabric and form has demonstrated that the nesting boxes found
within are a later addition to a structure which has none of the
characteristics of a purpose-built dovecote, suggesting that it was put
to this use only after it had ceased to function as a prospect tower. This
probably took place before 1780, when rows of nesting boxes were constructed
from coarse stone blocks, and stone slates were installed in the upper levels
of the tower. The remains of a fireplace inside the tower, together with the
presence of a chimney, which is shown on an 18th century illustration of the
tower, suggests that it was inhabited at some time.
In addition, the tower has sometimes been suggested to be a folly, but its
early date of construction and its variety of usage argue against this
interpretation.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The term prospect tower is used to describe a structure erected, usually by a
wealthy landowner, in a prominent and elevated position which commanded an
uninterrupted view of the surrounding landscape. They are usually square, but
can be circular or octagonal in plan and generally constructed from local
building stone, with one or more floor-levels. Many of these towers have been
inhabited at some time which is evidenced from the remains of fireplaces. Some
examples have been subsequently adapted for alternative, usually utilitarian,
purposes including dovecotes and hunting stands.
Despite being roofless and with part of the gable above the south wall
missing, the prospect tower 230m south of King's School survives well. It is
an unusual example of its class, having almost certainly been converted to a
prospect tower from an earlier building of probable late 15th to early 16th
century date which had monastic associations.
It is a well known and highly visible landmark of Bruton and the surrounding
area in its prominent position on Lusty Hill.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Couzens, P, Bruton in Selwood, (1968), 40-41
Hansell, P, Hansell, J, Doves and Dovecotes, (1988), 118,124

Source: Historic England

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