061025.Bradford, Lansdown Hill, Cemetery View from Beckford’s TowerOctober 25, 2006 at 12:46 PM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, cemeteries - churchyards - and tombstones, Halloween, somerset, Towers, Trees | 1 Comment
Lots of post streams to get back to, and since Halloween is right around the corner, I figured I might as well return to Beckford’s Tower and the cemetery that surrounds it high above both Bath and Bradford on Lansdown Hill.
First, to answer Zsolt72‘s question as to the date of the cemetery, it is a Victorian cemetery from the 1840s still-open for plots. The earliest grave there was William Thomas Beckford (October 1, 1760 – May 2, 1844), himself, (actually first his dog went but there’s no surviving marker). Buried above ground in a pink-marble sarcophagus that rests on a dry-moat island, next to his beloved tower and on this great hill, so he’d be closer to heaven (see thumbnail picture below). Interment didn’t occur immediately after his death since his daughter first sold the tower to a tavern developer but belatedly realizing the buyer’s intentions she bought it back and donated the place to a church and had the ground consecrated for daddy. Although the richest untitled man in England, Beckford wasn’t the greatest of men (his money came from slave-run sugar plantations in Jamaica) so it really did take the donation of an entire estate with tower for a church to let him rest.
He had two daughters but left everything in his will to only one–because she had married into aristocracy (the other only married a general)! Tragically, he hadn’t been present during that daughter’s birth nor most of her life since he exiled himself from England to avoid a death sentence after having been caught in bed with a 10 year-old boy (it was mainly scandalous because the boy was aristocracy–the future Hon . William Courtenay, 3rd Viscount and 9th Earl of Devon). What makes this worse was that the boy’s family probably set the whole thing up and used their son to bait the “new money” Beckford to his disgrace.
His tower on Lansdown Hill designed by Goodwich was his second and more humble Neverland, built after he had lost most of his money (the first having been sold just two years before it collapsed!). It doesn’t matter that he’s buried there now, it’s very fashionable and the family plots cost an arm and a leg.