Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Postcard from the Tower of Moab

In a previous post we discussed the likelihood that L A Lewis’ story ‘The Tower of Moab’ was based upon Jezreel’s Tower, Gillingham, Kent, and in another post reported on a local history group’s account of the demolition of the tower. Before it was destroyed, however, the tower was very much a local landmark, and it was depicted on several designs of postcard.

Quite a few of these survive. The example illustrated here, printed by Thornton Bros of New Brompton, Kent, is postmarked August 16 1905, and has a message from the anonymous sender with a couple of interesting allusions.

It reads: “This is the Tower that was supposed to hold 144,000 persons at the End of the world it is just up close to us and is being pulled down to be turned into a factory this card will be a novelty of the future.”

The author’s last comment was prescient. But it is also interesting to see a first hand report of the lore associated with the Tower, and also to learn that it was thought locally to be about to be demolished as early as 1905. In fact, demolition did not begin for another 55 years and it was not finally destroyed until 1961.

The recipient of the postcard lived in Cookham, Berkshire which, curiously enough was the birthplace and home village of Stanley Spencer, the artist most known for his visions of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time.

Mark Valentine


  1. There was an earlier attempt on the tower, as detailed in 'The Jezreelites', by R.A. Baldwin, published by the Lambarde Press of Orpington in 1962.

    The tower was sold in August 1903 "to Messrs. Brodage, Ridley and Tanton, of Tonbridge", with the Jezreelite community remaining in residence.

    "In 1905 the sect fell behind with their rent so the owners decided to take possession of the Tower, reduce its height and put a roof on it, to make it suitable to lease as a two storey factory or workshop. It was hoped to sell 500,000 bricks as a result of this operation...

    At mid-day on Friday, 29th July, 1905, under the owners' instructions, a broker and a party of navvies entered the premises, climbed the tower and commenced knocking bricks down to the ground, while other navvies took possession of the field."

    There follows a description of scuffles between the workers and the emerging Jezreelites, until the arrival of the police restored order. Irregular demolition of the tower continued for some time, hence its irregular appearance in later views - volume IV of 'Recording Britain', OUP / The Pilgrim Trust 1949, includes an atmospheric painting by Thomas Hennell showing its condition then. "It was never roofed and never used as a factory, and the reduction of its height was stopped, probably because the sale of bricks did not cover the demolition expenses".

  2. Thank you, Paul, that's most interesting, and certainly explains the reference in the 1905 postcard. Mark

  3. One of the Devil's Towers?