Clandeboye Estate & Helen’s Tower
24th November, 2021
Clandeboye Estate has a rich and fascinating history, with plenty of interesting landmarks dotted throughout the extensive estate and park-lands. One particular highlight is Helen’s Tower; a 19th century folly and lookout tower nestled deep in the enchanting broadleaved woodland.
When was Helen’s Tower built?
The captivating 3 storey tower was built between 1848 - 1861 by Frederick, the 1st Marquess of Dufferin & Ava to honour his mother, Helen, Baroness Dufferin & Claneboye and is named in her memory.
The History of Helen’s Tower
Helen’s Tower was designed by the famous Scottish architect William Burn. It is said that Burn pioneered the Scottish Baronial revival with Helen’s Tower, evident through the elaborate roofline that is embellished with tourelles (a type of turret) and battlements.
Designed as a folly which is a building constructed primarily for decoration but through its appearance suggests another purpose. In the case of Helen’s Tower its secondary purpose was as a lookout tower.
Constructed as a famine relief project, the building work on Helen’s Tower provided much needed jobs for unemployed workers in the County Down area.
The tower has been immortalised in a poem of the same name by British poet, Lord Alfred Tennyson. You can find this poem alongside other odes to the remarkable building by various other poets. These poems are proudly displayed on plaques on the third floor reading room.
Helen's Tower, here I stand,
Dominant over sea and land
Son's love built me, and I hold
Mother's love in letter'd gold.
Love is in and out of time,
I am mortal stone and lime.
Would my granite girth were strong
As either love, to last as long
I should wear my crown entire
To and thro' the Doomsday fire,
And be found of angel eyes
In earth's recurring Paradise.
The tower is filled with magnificent original features and boasts spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from the rooftop. On a clear day the distant Scottish shores, the Isle of Man and the mountains of Wales are visible from the top of Helen’s Tower.
Remembrance of the Great War
An almost exact replica of Helen’s Tower was erected in Thiepval, France in 1921 on what was the German front line during the Battle of the Somme. The 70ft tower is a monument to the officers and men of the 36th Ulster division which captured the Schwaben Redoubt, a strongly fortified position on the front line.
The Ulster Division trained and drilled in the shadow of Helen’s tower in County Down before the outbreak of WWI. The Ulster Tower pays tribute to those at the Battle of The Somme who laid down their lives and their Comrades-in-Arms.
Is Helen’s Tower open to the public?
Helen’s Tower is listed as a Grade A historic building and was restored in the 1980’s. Although the tower is not open as an attraction, it can be rented as holiday accommodation by the public from the Irish Landmark Trust. The tower sleeps 2 adults, features a cosy open fire in the sitting room, double bedroom and beautiful reading room.
How to get to Helen’s Tower
Helen’s Tower is located on the Clandeboye Estate near Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland.
Helen’s Tower Walk
The Estate features many beautiful country walks and there are several ways to access the tower from these walks. One popular route follows the old Ulster Way trail from Whitespots Country Park and through the Clandeboye Estate Woods, taking in Helen’s tower and onto Helen’s Bay. You can find more details about the route here.
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