Wainhouse Tower – Halifax, England - Atlas Obscura
Free iron-on Atlas Obscura badge when you preorder our new kids’ book. Shop now.

Halifax, England

Wainhouse Tower

This tallest folly in the world began its life as an elaborate factory chimney. 

Amazingly, this extravagant tower on the southwest side of Halifax in West Yorkshire was originally designed to serve as a chimney for the nearby dyeworks owned by John Wainhouse. It was meant to be linked to the factory via an underground duct, but was never actually used as such.

Instead, it became what’s believed to be the tallest folly in the world, at 275 feet high. It was erected between 1871 and 1875 at a total cost of £14,000. Yet while the chimney was still being built, Wainhouse sold the factory to his works manager, who subsequently refused to buy the unfinished chimney.

Wainhouse decided to keep the tower for himself, and use it to his advantage in a bitter feud between himself and his neighbor, Sir Henry Edwards, who had complained about smoke from the dyeworks affecting his estate.

Edwards had often boasted that he had the most private estate in Halifax, into which no one could see. But unfortunately for him, his land just so happened to be next to the chimney. After stairs and viewing platforms were added to the looming folly, he lost the privacy he so frequently boasted about, as the tower then offered a prime vantage point over his property.

Exactly 369 steps lead to the first of two viewing platforms and 405 steps lead to the top platform. While the lower platform is open to fit and brave members of the public willing to trek up the hundreds of stairs, the upper one is usually closed.

Know Before You Go

The tower is not hard to find—its dominant position allows you to see it from much of the town. Except on open days, it's best to park in a small cul-de-sac off Wakefield Gate. Cars may also be parked on Skircoat Moor Road. Opposite Halifax Fire station there is a brown sign indicating the path that leads to the tower.

The tower is open to the public on bank holidays.