Historic building conservator Philip Scorer inspects the fabric of King Alfred’s Tower. ©National Trust
The National Trust’s South West Blog keeps coming up with great images at the moment. A suitable caption for this one might be ‘Just another day working for the National Trust.’ I love Philip Scorer’s studious pose, pen and paper at the ready, while dangling off the side of an eighteenth-century folly.
King Alfred’s Tower, Stourhead. ©National Trust Images/Stephen Robson
In fact it shows Philip inspecting King Alfred’s Tower, on the Stourhead estate, which is in need of repair. Significant funds have already been raised, including grants from the Viridor Environmental Credits Company and from the Mackintosh Foundation, but we are now trying to find the final £24,000.
King Alfred the Great, attributed to Samuel Woodforde (1763-1817), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732296. ©National Trust, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation
The tower demonstrates how the figure of King Alfred (849-99) was used as a cultural emblem in the eighteenth century. This Anglo-Saxon king was known for repelling vikings, rebuilding towns and cities, reforming the legal system and encouraging scholarship and religion.
Bust of King Alfred in the Temple of British Worthies at Stowe. ©National Trust Images/Jerry Harpur
From the sixteenth century onwards Alfred ‘the Great’ came to be revered as the epitome of a virtuous monarch. He was seen as a symbol of British virtues such as patriotism, love of liberty and respect for the rule of law.
Portrait of Anne Hoare, later Lady Mathew (d.1872), with King Alfred’s Tower in the distance, by William Owen, RA (1769-1825), at Stourhead, inv. no. 732267. Image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation
King Alfred’s Tower at Stourhead was designed by Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769) for Henry Hoare II (1705-85). It commemorates the peace with France in 1762 and the recent accession of King George III (1738-1820), like Alfred seen as ‘a truly British King’.
Painted plaster relief of King Alfred, probably 1760s, in the Caesar’s hall, Kedleston Hall, inv. no. 109000.2. ©National Trust/Andrew Patterson
American readers of this blog might well question George III’s credentials as a champion of liberty, but I suppose that is one of the ironies of history.