Lakeside and its tower go hand in hand – the tall, red brick structure has been part of the north Nottinghamshire skyline for almost 200 years. Which is why it was so important that this iconic structure continued to be an integral part of the venue’s redevelopment.
Now named the Thomas Hawksley Tower, in recognition of the engineer that designed Bestwood Pumping Station back in 1873, the tower stands tall and proud at the centre of the pumping house, its stained-glass windows and domed top more reminiscent of a church bell tower than that of an industrial facility.
In fact, this ornate detailing was a condition of the original building design which had to meet with the approval of the then Duke of St Albans, on whose land the pumping station was built. The tower conceals a huge chimney and its Gothic Venetian architectural style, along with the layout of the buildings and cooling ponds, brought the whole site together giving it an ornamental garden feel.
Almost 100 years later, in 1964, the boilers were stoked for the final time and as the fires were extinguished so the chimney and its tower became obsolete. When previous owners turned the site into a restaurant and spa in the late 1990’s the tower was boarded up and it has remained untouched since then.
Now, as part of a huge and sympathetic refurbishment project of the Grade II* listed building, the tower has been opened once more. Missing steps have been replaced, the walls sandblasted and new industrial-style lighting installed to give the public the unique opportunity to literally follow in the footsteps of Thomas Hawksley and the pumping house workers.
For the first time ever, visitors to Lakeside will be able to climb the 75 worn, stone steps, winding gradually upwards to the viewing gallery at the top. From here, 52 metres (172 feet) up, gaze down from all sides over the Lakeside gardens as well as the far-reaching green fields and woodland of the Nottinghamshire countryside.
With the viewing gallery displaying information boards detailing the history of the building and the accomplishments of Thomas Hawksley, a trip up the tower will provide a fascinating insight into the history of Lakeside. Not to mention some pretty incredible wedding photographs!
The tower will be open daily but visits must be booked in advance.
September 22nd, 2020