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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:

Date of Construction:
1840 - 1859

Address :
Scrabo Tower (Londonderry Monument) Scrabo Hill Scrabo Newtownards Co Down BT23


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
04/03/1977 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
J4775 7262

Owner Category

Central Govt

Exterior Description And Setting

Scrabo Tower is one of the most famous buildings in Northern Ireland. This is mainly due to its prominent position on the summit of Scrabo Hill (to the west of Newtownards), which makes it visible for many miles around. It is a tall (c.42m) largely square tower in the French influenced Scots baronial style, designed by Charles Lanyon, and erected in 1857/8 in memory the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry. The tower roughly six storeys high and constructed in random basalt rubble with (Scrabo) sandstone dressings to most openings. The base consists of a tall battered plinth. The tower is topped with castellated and corbelled battlements with small round corner turrets, with steep stone conical caps to the NW, NE and SW corners of the battlements. Within the battlements (and topping the tower as a whole) is a large tower with a similar steep conical roof. To the SE corner is a full height projecting round corner (staircase) turret, also steep conical roof. The building is entered on the N face via a set of stone steps which lead to a semicircular headed recessed doorway with a diagonally timber sheeted door, with wrought iron security grill in front. Directly above the doorway is an inscribed panel with a dedication to the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry etc. Above this is a recessed sandstone panel with a coat of arms. Above this are four (centrally placed) windows one directly above the other, with a large gap between the lowest window and the next one up. All these windows have metal (sash-like) frames with many small panes. To the right and left of the main doorway is a small slit window, with a similar window directly above each. The E face also has four central placed windows arranged as N face, except that the lowest window is at an even lower level. Below this window are two small slit windows, with one to its left, and two more above. The S face has four centrally placed windows much as before (with spacing similar to N face), with a fifth (similar) window to the centre left on the battered plinth (i.e. at ground level). To the right of this window is a slit window. The W face has three centrally placed windows, as before but only to the upper levels. Below these are two slit windows to the plinth with two more directly above (at a much higher level). The projecting stair tower has six slit windows at various levels along its entire length, facing roughly SW, five similarly arranged windows facing roughly S, and five more facing roughly SE. There is a slim slightly projecting course to the stair tower where it intersects with the corbelled battlements Above this there are a series of windows around the tower (and a door giving battlement access), just below the ‘eaves’ of the conical roof. The small corner turrets each have a slit window and a doorway to the battlements. The large central ‘roof’ tower has a beacon for aircraft to the pinnacle of its conical roof.


Lanyon, Charles

Historical Information

Scrabo Tower was erected in 1857/8 as memorial to the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry who had died in 1854. It inception was largely due to a group of admirers who met in Newtownards rectory in July 1854 with the aim of building a memorial in the town square. The following year, however, it was decided the memorial should instead be erected on Scrabo Hill and that its design should be subject to a competition, with the cost of the work not to exceed £2,000. The eventual designer of the tower, Charles Lanyon, came fourth, but had his proposal accepted because it came within the price range. When the work was finally completed, however, the total cost amounted to £3, 010. The foundation stone was laid during a well attended ceremony on 6th March 1857. The plaque above the entrance to the tower states that the monument was inspired by the gratitude felt by the local tenantry towards the late Marquis, for the concern he showed during the famine. The vast bulk of the tenantry did not subscribe towards the monument, however, and over two thirds of the cost was paid by 98 individuals (the list headed by Emperor Napoleon III), most of whom were fellow gentry from Antrim and Down and personal friends of the Marquis. In fact, rather than the object of the tenant affection, the 3rd Marquis, had alienated many of his tenantry through his unbending attitude during the Tenant Right campaign of the early 1850s. Thus, as at least one historian has commented: ‘if the Tower is anything, it is surely the symbol of landlord power. Whether he was working on his farm or travelling through the parish, whenever the tenant farmer looked up, the Tower would be there, a gracious but stoney reminder of who was in charge’. The Tower was lived in by a caretaker and his family up until the [?mid] twentieth century and housed a restaurant during the 1970s [?and 1980s]. In recent years the Tower has come into the care of the Dept. of Environment and has been sympathetically refurbished. Today Scrabo Tower is open to the public and houses (among other things) an exhibition hall and conference room. During the Bronze Age the summit of Scrabo Hill was the site of a considerable settlement, enclosed within an oval hill fort. References- Primary sources 1 PRONI D.654 Londonderry Papers. 2 PRONI Ordnance Survey Maps 1st Revision 1858-60, Co. Down 5. 3 PRONI 2nd (‘Griffith’s’) valuation, parish of Newtownards, townland of Scrabo, 1863. Secondary sources 1 Trevor McCavery 'Newtown, a history of Newtownards' (Dundonald 1994), pp.17-19, 140-42. 2 'Archaeological survey of County Down' (HMSO 1966), p.147.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H+. Alterations enhancing the building J. Setting

Historic Interest

W. Northern Ireland/International Interest V. Authorship


Scrabo Tower is a tall square tower of 1857 by Charles Lanyon in the French influenced Scots baronial style. The Tower was erected as a monument to the memory of the 3rd Marquis of Londonderry, however, its fame has less to do with historical associations than its prominent siting on the summit of Scrabo Hill, a site which renders the Tower visible from many miles distant and makes it one of Northern Ireland’s most famous land marks.

General Comments

Date of Survey

15 April 1998