The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Middlesex, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Wilshire, Dorsetshire, Hampshire, Sussex, and Kent in the Summer of 1832

Fonthill Abbey collapse

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To those who are acquainted with the details of building, and especially with the practices of the worst London builders, the exhibition here is most amusing in a scientific point of view; and one may easily conceive that the work has been chiefly carried on by men in a state of intoxication. The manner in which the tower fell may be mentioned as something remarkable. It had given indications of falling for some time, and the more valuable parts of the windows and other articles had been removed. Mr. Farquhar, however, who then resided in one angle of the building, and who was in a very infirm state of health, could not be brought to believe that there was any danger. He was wheeled out in his chair on the lawn in front, about half an hour before it fell; and though he saw the cracks, and the deviation of the central tower from the perpendicular, he treated the idea of its coming down as ridiculous. He was carried back to his room, however, and the tower fell almost immediately. From the manner in which it fell, from the lightness of the materials of which it was constructed, and partly also from a number of workmen having been for some days making a noise in taking down articles, which it was supposed by Mr. Farquhar's nephew the tower would injure if it fell, neither Mr. Farquhar nor the servants, who were in the kitchen preparing dinner, knew that it had fallen; though the immense collection of dust which rose into the atmosphere had assembled almost all the inhabitants of the village, and had given the alarm even as far as Wardour Castle. Only one man (who died in 1833) saw it fall. He is said to have described its manner of falling as very beautiful; it first sank perpendicularly and slowly, and then burst and spread over the roofs of the adjoining wings on every side, but rather more on the south-west than on the others. The cloud of dust which arose was enormous, and such as completely to darken the air for a considerable distance around for several minutes. Such was concussion in the interior of the building, that one man forced along a passage, as if he had been in an air-gun, to the distance of 30 ft., among dust so thick as to be felt. Another, on the outside, was in the like manner carried to some distance. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. With all this, in its almost incredible that neither Mr. Farquhar nor the servants in the kitchen should have heard the tower fall, or known than it had fallen, till they saw through the windows the people of the village who had assembled to see the ruins. Still, we were assured by different persons that this was the fact. We can hardly account for it by the lightness of the materials and the distance of the tower from the kitchen, and the room inhabited by Mr. Farquhar, though this was very considerable, since the dust must surely have penetrated everywhere to such an extent as to excite suspicion. We were informed, however, that the must occasioned by taking out the windows, &c., was so considerable that, when Mr. Farquhar's table was covered with dust from the falling of the tower, he thought it arose from the same cause Mr. Farquhar, it is said, could scarcely be convinced that the tower was down; and when he was so, he said he was glad on it, for that now the house would not be too large for him to live in. Mr. Beckford, when told at Bath, by his servant, than the tower had fallen, merely observed, that it had then made an obeisance to Mr. Farquhar, which it had never done to him.