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Wainhouse Tower

The 'Tower of Spite' is one of Britain's finest follies.

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Information on Wainhouse Tower

Attraction type:
  • Culture & Heritage
  • Family
  • Historic Sites & Trails

The 253 ft Wainhouse Tower was originally commissioned as a chimney for the local dye works by John Edward Wainhouse in the late 19th century. The structure was never actually used as a working chimney and as such, is regarded by many as one of Britain’s finest follies.

In recent years Wainhouse Tower was open to the public on the Bank Holidays, for those brave enough to tackle the 403 steps to the viewing gallery at the top, the stunning views make it well worth the climb. We hope that it will be possible to reopen the Tower to visitors later in 2022 and will add any dates the Tower may be open to the public here when and if they are confirmed.

A Brief History of Wainhouse Tower

Born in 1817 John Edward Wainhouse inherited his Uncle’s Dyeworks on Washer Lane, Halifax in 1856. The Dyeworks were typical of the day, causing considerable pollution because of smoke emissions.

Halifax was badly affected by smog. For weeks on end the smoke laden atmosphere blanketed the town, reducing sunlight and contaminating the landscape with soot and sulphur trioxide. This national problem caused the Government to introduce a Smoke Abatement Act.

Wainhouse developed the idea of building a chimney 350 metres up the hillside from the Dyeworks, connected to it by an underground tunnel. Sir Henry Edwards, A wealthy neighbour of John Edward Wainhouse, made complaints about the smoke nuisance caused by the Dyeworks, leading to a feud between the two men.

Mr Isaac Booth (who was also Sir Henry’s architect) was asked by Wainhouse to design and build the mill chimney. The design incorporated an internal staircase that led to four balcony features. This exacerbated the deepening feud between Wainhouse and Sir Henry.

Sir Henry, an extrovert and boastful man, claimed that his private estate at Pye Nest could not be viewed from any house o the hills. Wainhouse said he would rectify this by putting an observatory at the top of his chimney.

Work commenced in 1871. In 1873, as a result of the feuding; the architect Isaac Booth decided he could no longer work for either man. This led to the appointment of Richard Swarbrick Dugdale, who redesigned the upper section of the building. The new design incorporated a corbelled and balustrade balcony, surmounted by a lantern dome and finial.

The building was completed on the 9th September 1875. It is estimated that over 9,000 tonnes of materials were used. The total cost is thought to be in the region of £15,000. However, by the time the building was completed, it was clear that it would never be used as a chimney.

The Washer Lane Dyeworks had been sold in 1874 to the works manager Mr Henry Mossman. The sale did not include the Tower. It is thought that Mossman saw the then uncompleted building to be a liability. This point of view is difficult to understand given the fact that Mossman was then prosecuted under the Smoke Abatement Act. Mossman proved that considerable efforts were made to abate the smoke nuisance by pulling down six existing small chimneys …and erecting a large chimney in their place!

John Edward Wainhouse died on 26th July 1883 at the age of 66. He as buried in the family grave at Holy Trinity Churchyard, Halifax. The gravestone is located against the boundary wall on the south side of the Church.

The Tower and three acres of surrounding land was sold by auction in 1887. The Tower changed hands several times until coming under the ownership of the Halifax Corporation in 1919. During the Second World War the Tower was used by the military authorities as an observation post.

As a result of the reorganisation of Local Government in 1974, Wainhouse Tower became the property of Calderdale Council. Today the Tower is used as a viewing platform; and it is hoped that it will soon once again be open to the public on select days through the year.