Coat of Arms
History of Lendal Tower
Early History: Defending the City
By means of a huge iron chain, stored in the tower, when pulled across the river and secured to Barker Tower on the opposite bank the chain was a barrier to boats on the river, protecting the city in times of trouble and enabling tolls to be charged for entry.
Following attack by the rebels of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland the tower was repaired in 1584-5 and in the process gained a tiled roof.
Between 1616 and 1632 a Mr Maltby was attempting to operate a piped water supply for the city at the tower. Using a horse powered pump, water was delivered to the city via hollowed out tree trunks. The city corporation (or council) eventually asked for the pipes to be removed and the tower became a riverside warehouse, falling into some disrepair thereafter.
With the advent of the English Civil War and the Siege of York in the 1640's the tower once more reverted to defender of the city and its river entrance, held for the King and bombarded by Cromwell and Fairfax.
In 1674 Henry Whistler of London proposed a new scheme for supplying water and in April 1677 the tower was leased for 500 years to the York waterworks company. The tower was repaired, enlarged and heightened to take a lead cistern to which water could first be pumped into, prior to onward flow to the growing city. After Whistler’s death a Col. William Thornton purchased the concern for £4,000, and then obtained a mortgage for £1,400 in order to install a Newcomen Steam Engine, of 4.7 horse power. Public baths with ‘hot and cold water’ were added in next door what is now Lendal Hill House. Water was also supplied to the Mansion House and the Ouse Bridge Gaol.
Mid History: Providing the City with Water
In 1781-4 John Smeaton (the father of Civil Engineering and designer of the famous Eddystone Lighthouses) rebuilt the engine to produce 18 horse power to raise 10,500 gallons an hour. Drawings of the engine are displayed at the tower and evidence of its workings still exists at the mezzanine floor level on the heavy beams above. The improved engine worked in the tower until 1836, when it was moved to a new engine house (this is the red-brick building adjoining Lendal Tower).
Following the York New Water Works Company being incorporated in 1846 by Queen Victoria, the waterworks moved further up stream to Acomb Landing, and the tower was lowered by 10 feet with the removal of the lead water cistern. A grid from the period bearing the initials of the new company Y N W W can be found on the garden path near the lawn steps.
The tower then became the proud headquarters for the new company; extensive work was undertaken in 1932 to create a grander interior space and the Board Room (now the top floor master-bedroom suite). Having sustained only collateral damage during World War II, when a cobble stone came through the copper roof/ornamental ceiling of the tower, the YNWW Company was acquired by what is now Yorkshire Water in 1999.
Recent History: Restoration
The building gradually fell into disrepair and was much neglected until the previous owner acquired it in 2010. He successfully navigated his way through the complex maze of Planning & Building Control Regulations and stringent Conservation and Heritage requirements to obtain final permissions to turn what was an Ancient Scheduled Listed Monument into a unique, stunning home, in an unrivalled setting (apparently the first such residential conversion of an Ancient Scheduled Monument since that of Windsor Castle).A team of specialist and skilled craftsmen were able to achieve the goal of not only repairing and preserving this historically significant building, but also that of working respectfully to maintain the Tower’s character and charm. Lendal Tower is a key part of York’s history which is why it is important to share it with those who want to stay at the heart of York. The Tower has been a major part of York’s landscape for centuries and so it will remain for all to enjoy.