Historic grade one tower in Hadlow, Kent

Property reference 229715
Sorry, this property is no longer available to book. Please make an enquiry if you would like help finding something similar.
Sorry, this property is no longer available to book. Please make an enquiry if you would like help finding something similar.

Known locally as May's Folly, this is the tallest gothic folly in the UK, with 360 degree views over the local countryside! More details...


Availability & Pricing

Sorry, this property is no longer available to book. Please make an enquiry if you would like help finding something similar.


Location: On the A26, 4 miles from Tonbridge and 10 miles from Maidstone, Kent. The quick train service to London is from Tonbridge, which is about 10 minutes drive from Hadlow. There are several trains an hour to London and they take about 35 minutes to London Bridge or 45 minutes to London Charing Cross. The Tower is about 1 hour drive from Camber Sands (for white sandy beaches), to Hastings (for the historic battle and quintissential sea side town) and Dover/Folkestone/Ashford (for onward travel to Europe)

Interesting Towns: ­ Royal Tunbridge Wells, West Malling, Canterbury, Cobham, Ightham, Maidstone

Historic Attractions: Hever Castle, Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Chartwell (NT), Penshurst Place, Finchcocks Musical Museum, Maidstone Carriage Museum, Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery, Charles Dickens Trail around Chatham and Rochester

Activities: fishing, sailing & cycling at Bewl Water, walking in Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest and along The Weald Way, wine tasting, River Medway cruises, horse riding, golf and Mote Park Maidstone

Food and Drink: Enjoy a great meal plus the views of the church at The Swan in West Peckham or sample the great beer at The Rose Revived in Hadlow (a very short drive or about a ten minute walk from the property). Or cosy up in front of the open fire at the 16th century Kentish Rifleman at Dunk's Green.

If you’re a fan of gin, then why not tour The Greensand Ridge Gin Distillery in nearby Tonbridge?   

Local Events:

  • May - Sweeps Festival Rochester
  • July - Kent County Show and Whitstable Oyster Festival
  • August - Faversham Hop Festival
  • October - Canterbury Festival
  • December - Dickensian Christmas Rochester


  • Property types

    Grade 1 listed
  • Theme

    Grade 1 listed
  • General

    Central heating
    Disabled access
    Mobile phone signal
    No smoking
    Scenic view
    Lake view
    No pets allowed
    Off road parking
  • Kitchen

    Washing machine
    Tumble dryer
    High chair
  • Living room

    DVD player
    Log fire
  • Bathrooms

    Disabled shower
    Power shower
    Towels provided
    Downstairs toilet
    Towel radiator
    Wet room
  • Bedrooms

    King size bed
    Single bed
    Hair dryer
    Four poster bed
    Linen provided
    Twin beds
  • Local facilties

    Playground nearby
    Shop nearby
    Lake nearby
    Restaurant nearby
    Train station nearby
  • Leisure activities

    Board games
    Croquet lawn
    Boot room
    Garden furniture
    Picnic bench

The Hadlow Tower is an historic Grade 1 gothic folly. It is the tallest gothic folly in the UK, with 360 degree views over the local countryside. The Tower offers comfortable accommodation across 5 floors comprising a large dining room to seat 8, a cosy lounge with wood burning stove, a spacious kitchen with seating for 6. There are 3 double bedrooms (two are en-suite) with King and Super King sized beds (one may be converted to a twin). An additional room may be made up with either a double or twin beds. There are two spiral stair cases and a commercial lift for access.

First impressions are everything and we are confident that this historic tower set in the heart of the Kent countryside will leave you speechless.

Step back in time, from the moment you drive through the prominent Gothic castle gates off the high street in Hadlow, past tree lined lawns and a pond, up to what is the tallest Gothic folly in the world!

Once inside this Grade I listed building, you will find yourself in 21st century luxury. Past the small museum on the ground floor, through to the lift to all floors (or why not take the spiral staircase) that takes you up to very heart of this wonderful tower, opening out to the first floor, with high arched windows with expansive views, Victorian style radiators, a quirky octagonal dining room seating 8 and the kitchen, with its original stained-glass windows.

The second floor features a lounge drawing room, with a large fireplace with a wood burning stove, floor to ceiling windows, comfortable leather sofas and a bathroom off the vestibule area.

On the third floor you will find the enchantingly named Snow White bedroom, with a Baroque style king size bed and ensuite bathroom, with wet room and disabled access. As well as the Red Riding Hood twin bedroom, with views out over the lake.

And finally, the fourth floor comprises the fairy tale Rapunzel bedroom, with its hand carved, silver Rococo style super king bed and an impressive mezzanine level bathroom above, containing a WC, basin and bath with shower over.

Please note: Guests will have exclusive use of the property during their stay, including the ground floor exhibition centre. For insurance reasons, guests are not allowed to go to the very top of the tower without being supervised.

Whilst not forbidden, we would suggest that the property is not suitable for children under 10 years. There are a lot of stone steps and as the tower is Grade 1 Listed, it is not possible to incorporate safety features such as child gates. There are also floor to ceiling single paned glass windows on some floors and adult supervision at all times is essential.

  • lift to all accommodation levels
  • ​ultra fast Wi-Fi
  • panoramic views over beautiful countryside
  • television/DVD/amazon fire stick
  • ample free, off street parking
  • wood burning stove
  • ​modern, well equipped kitchen
  • ​huge fire place in drawing room
  • 8 seater dining table and chairs
  • laundry facilities

Check in 4pm, check out 10.45am.



In 1786 Walter (Barton) May inherited Hadlow Court Lodge, the manor and land, from his father and it is from them on that the buildings we see today began to take shape. In 1790 he demolished Court Lodge and replaced it with a completely new house of stuccoed brick in the gothick style. The building work is recorded as having been completed by 1803.

The house was built of red brick, and cement rendered to resemble stone. The external detailing was elaborately gothick with tall pinnacles, castellated chimneys, the windows with a variety of thin gothick tracery. Inside, though the hall, corridor and staircase were gothic, the dining room and drawing room were classical with screens of Corinthian columns. The subsidiary living rooms, and the bedrooms, were plain classical. This division between gothick circulation spaces and classical living rooms is typical of Regency houses and can be found for instance on a large scale at Windsor Castle, Belvoir and Ashridge.

The new house was not universally admired. The grumpy radical William Cobbett recorded in May 1823: 'At a village called Hadlow, there is a house belonging to Mr May, the most singular looking thing I ever saw. An immense house stuck all over with a parcel of chimneys, or things like chimneys: little brick columns, with sort of caps on them, looking like carnation sticks, with caps at the top to catch the earwigs. The building is all of brick and has the oddest appearance of anything I ever saw.' (William Cobbett, Rural Rides, 1912, p.254).

Walter May's son, Walter Barton May transformed his father's relatively reasonable gothick country house into one of the great follies of England, by elaborating the outworks and adding two or three towers. Walter Barton May's major project began in 1832. This took the form of a tall octagonal tower at the south east extremity of the house, in front of the 1790 service wing and terminating the south front extension. The tower was modelled very closely on the central tower of Fonthill Abbey which had collapsed in 1825. The engravings of J.P. Neale (1824), John Britton or in John Rutters guide A Description of Fonthill (1822) must have been used as the source for the overall design at Barton May's own suggestion, but George Ledwall Taylor, architect to the Admiralty, was employed presumably to make sure that the building stayed up.

The astonishing folie de grandeur character of the architecture of Hadlow - beyond the means of a small landed estate (circa 700 acres in the mid-nineteenth century) to support - suggests that Walter Barton May was an extremely eccentric, antiquarian-minded show-off. His architectural aggrandisement of Hadlow was encouraged and paid for, it is said, by a legacy of £22,000 from an aunt, but there is no evidence for this. Within three years of Walter Barton May's death, Hadlow Castle and the estate had been sold in 5 lots to pay off his debts and that was the end of the Barton May's of Hadlow Castle.

Since the 1840s only minimal maintenance had been carried out to the Tower, with the inevitable decline in the fabric of the building. During WWII it served as a vegetable store and a lofty observation post for the Observer Corps and Home Guard. It was doubtless used as a landmark by Luftwaffe pilots on their way to London, who dropped bombs in nearby fields. In 1951 the main building of the castle with its 'arches, groins, ramifications and various flowers of Gothic grandeur' was tragically demolished for building materials. It was only the timely intervention of Bernard Hailstone RP, a local portrait painter, who purchased the Tower and the remaining courtyard buildings, who prevented its demise.

1976 saw the Tower converted to a dwelling. However, it was the damage caused by the exceptional storms of 1987 which started the major problems that beset the building. During the mid 1990s Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council carried out urgent safety work, removing the 40ft lantern, pinnacles and gables, totalling 90 tons of masonry. In 1998 the World Monument Fund considered the building to be important enough for it to be included in the top 100 most endangered historic buildings in the world.

The latest restoration of the Tower was completed in 2013, which included the reinstatement of missing pre-cast and moulded decoration, and the reinstatement of the lantern. The whole tower was decorated in a gothic style using a material common at the time; Roman Cement.

Hadlow Tower forms part of Hadlow Castle, most of which is now lost bar the tower itself and the courtyard buildings. With the ornate lantern reinstated the tower rises to 170 feet making it the UK's tallest standing folly and a truly magnificent Kent landmark.


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