Old John Tower

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Old John Tower


Old John (Leicestershire).jpg
Old John Tower in Bradgate Park
Type: Folly
Grid reference: SK52561124
Location: 52°41’47"N, 1°13’25"W
For: George Grey, 5th Earl of Stamford
by Thomas Sketchley
Owned by: Bradgate Park Trust

Old John Tower stands atop is the highest hill in Bradgate Park in Leicestershire, a hill known as Old John. The hill and the park are on the southern edge of Charnwood Forest. The tower is a folly that stands at the top its hill, 696 feet high, and is a prominent landmark across Leicester and Leicestershire.


Old John

The earliest recorded use of the name ‘Old John’ is on a map of 1754, which records a windmill on the site, some 30 years before the tower was built. The tower itself began life as a ruined folly, built in 1784, during the time of George Grey, 5th Earl of Stamford. He commissioned Thomas Sketchley of Anstey to build him the mock ruin, which had strong similarities to Mow Cop in Staffordshire.[1]

The tower was adapted in the mid-19th century by the seventh Earl to serve as an observation tower for the practice circuit he laid out for his horses, along with the building of a stable block lower down the hill.[1]

The tower is well known for its resemblance to a beer tankard or a mug. This shape has given rise to accounts of the tower's origins supposedly relating to a beer-loving miller who was killed after being hit by a pole during a bonfire.[1] In fact it looks this way because there was once a longer section of wall adjoining the tower after the 19th century extension: this was reduced in size over the years, leaving the present 'handle' shape.[1]

Bradgate Park

In the past the tower has been used as a meeting place for hunters with their hounds, and a luncheon house for shooting parties in the park.

In 1928, the park was donated to the local council for public use.[2]

The tower today

Internally, the tower retains a number of 19th century fittings, including timber floors, slate fireplaces, shuttered windows and a castellated roof. It is a grade II listed building. A narrow spiral staircase gives access to the upper floor, and is open to visitors on the park's guided walk programmes.

In 2001, Bradgate Park Trust registered the design of the building as a trademark,[3] and in 2018 told a local artist that she would have to pay them if she continued to sell her paintings of it.[4]

Adjacent to the tower is a toposcope installed in 1953.[2] This was installed by the people of Newtown Linford from money raised at the 1953 'Pageant of Lady Jane Grey', performed to celebrate 400 years since she was proclaimed Queen of England.[5]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Old John Tower)


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Stevenson, Joan & Squires, Anthony (1999) Bradgate Park: Childhood Home of Lady Jane Grey, Kairos Press, ISBN 1-871344-23-9, p. 55
  2. 2.0 2.1 Stevenson, Aubrey (1977) Get to Know Bradgate, Leicestershire Libraries and Information Service, p. 17
  3. Bradgate Park Trust: Sale of images
  4. "Artist in row over charge to paint tower". 21 February 2018. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-43141497. Retrieved 22 February 2018. 
  5. Stevenson, Joan, (1979) A Family Guide to Bradgate Park and Swithland Wood, Sycamore Press, p.27