The Semaphore Tower on Chatley Heath in Surrey is the only surviving semaphore tower in Britain. Complete with a working semaphore mast, it is a unique remnant from the Napoleonic era.
The Grade II* tower was once a vital link in a signalling chain that transmitted messages in just a few minutes from Admiralty House in London to Portsmouth Docks. Now sadly it has fallen into disrepair, with water seeping into its fine brickwork. The water ingress has reached a critical point , threatening the mast’s stability and the tower’s structural integrity.
Now, thanks to the generosity of over 1,000 Landmark Trust supporters, the Semaphore Tower’s future is secure and restoration work will begin later this year.
The Semaphore Tower lends itself well to reuse as a Landmark. It was always a domestic building as well as an operational structure, built to house the naval lieutenant who operated the signals, and his family.
Its renewed roof will provide a wonderful spot to enjoy the long 360 degree views across to London and the Home Counties, and its refurbished machinery will offer a living lesson in technological and engineering history.
Chatley Heath itself is a nationally important site for dragonflies and damselflies, with twenty species recorded. It also attracts many rare birds. The tower is surrounded by 800 acres of woodland and heathland that can be explored by the many footpaths and cycle paths. The basement will provide a bike store for those keen on exploring the area by bike.
“Thanks to our generous supporters, we have reached our fundraising target to save the tower,” said the Landmark Trust.
“We hope to start our restoration at the end of the year, with the intention of opening the building for bookings in late 2020. We are currently seeking a main contractor to lead the project, whilst finalising the necessary consents.”
Works needed include:
- repairs a 1m crack in a water-damaged ceiling
- overhaul and redecorate a section of porch railing
- carefully repoint 1m² of fine brickwork with penny struck lime pointing
- overhaul 19 sash windows
- repairs to the semaphore mechanism