Wainhouse Tower, Halifax

Wainhouse Tower, the folly at King Cross, Halifax, is a 280 ft high tower.

It is the world's tallest folly.

It was originally intended to be a chimney to carry smoke from Wainhouse's Washer Lane Dye Works to such an altitude that atmospheric influences would obviate any objection which might be made to the smoke.

The chimney was connected to the Dye Works by an underground flue. The internal flue within the chimney is 7 ft in diameter.

In 1871-1875, it was encased in stone by John Edward Wainhouse, the owner of the Dye Works, following a feud with Sir Henry Edwards – a dispute which started in 1873 when Wainhouse's architect went to work for Edwards.

The architect was Isaac Booth, but when he got into a dispute with Wainhouse, the work was taken over by R. S. Dugdale, who added the ornate lantern and viewing balcony at the top.

It was completed on 9th September 1875 – after the Dye Works had been sold – at a cost of £15,000. The tower contains over 9,000 tons of brick and stone.

The stonework is said to have been constructed in mortice & tenon manner, without the use of mortar.

It has been said that Wainhouse built the tower in order to keep his workers employed when the dyeing industry declined.

The Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer [Thursday 21st October 1886] reported

In connection with the Wainhouse Estate – Sale by Auction on 20th October included the Famous Octagon Tower (90 yards high and of stone) with the plot of land on which it stands was sold for £535 to Mr W.H.D Horsfall.

This structure was erected at a cost of £4,000 to £5,000


In 1912, it was offered for sale but there were no buyers.

The tower was subsequently put to various uses, including a chicken coop, an aerial for the 2KD radio station of W. E. Denison, and an ARP observation post.

The Leeds Mercury [27th February 1918] reported

Halifax Local Landmark

An effort has been made to secure the well known Halifax landmark, Wainhouse Tower, called also the Octagon Tower, for presentation to the municipality as the property of the town.

The Tower, with the three acres of, at present arid, land, used for hen runs, is in the market and the scheme is to acquire it by means of subscriptions, the highest being 10s.

£1,000 is required


On 30th May 1919, it was bought by Halifax Corporation for £450 raised by a Shilling Subscription Fund.

A spiral staircase of 403 steps leads to the viewing balcony which used to be open at various times, including Spring Bank Holiday and September Break.

It was never used for its original purpose, and is also popularly known as the Observatory, the Octagon Tower, the Tower of Spite, and Wainhouse Folly.

A report from the 1990s said that the apparition of a woman was seen sitting by the tower and crying unconsolably into her hands.

In 2007, there were newspaper reports that the structure was unsafe and it was closed.

In June 2007, Calderdale Council announced that £350,000 would be spent restoring the tower so that it could again be opened to the public

© Malcolm Bull 2024
Revised 09:22 / 30th March 2024 / 6648

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