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ABOVE: Just one of the stunning views from the top of Appleton Tower

A home in the clouds... From a purely functional building to a fabulous holiday home – Charlotte Thorneycroft traces the fortunes of Appleton Tower on the edge of the Sandringham Estate. Photographs by D Kirkham.


n the past, we’ve featured a number of interesting and beautiful homes in this section of the magazine, but I think Appleton Water Tower tops the table in the league of unusual conversions we’ve come across so far. Situated on the edge of the Sandringham Estate, the tower – built in 1877-78 – has an interesting and stately history. In the early 1870s, two members of the Royal family had fallen ill from typhoid whilst staying at Sandringham, and when Prince Albert died of the same disease whilst at Windsor Castle, the engineer Robert Rawlinson was brought in to assess the drainage systems. Finding a number of foul cesspools, the poor drainage was blamed as the cause of the prince’s disease. Sandringham was next in the spotlight as its water supply was tested and deemed ‘unsatisfactory’.

KLmagazine March 2011

Something had to be done to provide the Estate with a clean, reliable supply. The site for the new supply was a chalk spring about a mile from Sandringham. It was soon apparent that both a pumping station and service reservoir would be required, as the spring wasn’t high enough to create the necessary pressure. This eventually took the form of the 32,000-litre tank gracing the top of Appleton Water Tower, a feature projecting above the surrounding trees that can be seen from miles around. Although a building with a purely functional purpose, the design engineer James Mansergh had every intention to exploit its elevated position and make a statement with what was still essentially a Royal building. Externally, the style is somewhat striking, but he knew the best feature of the tower

would be the views which could be enjoyed from it. For this reason, the second floor was reserved as a room for the Royal Family and their guests to use whilst on shoots or picnics, where they could look out at the breathtaking views over West Norfolk. Clever Victorian ideas also took practicality into consideration – all the flues in the tower ran through the iron tank to prevent it from freezing! Appleton Water Tower served the Estate well for many years until it became operated by a local water authority. In 1973 this beautiful building sadly became surplus to requirements, and it was left to stand empty and deserted. Fortunately the Landmark Trust, a charity that specialises in rescuing buildings of architectural and historic importance, stepped in and took over the lease of the tower.


March 2011  
March 2011  

The March 2011 issue of KL Magazine