1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tower

TOWER (Lat. turris; Fr. tour, clocher; Ital. torre; Ger. Thurm), the term given to a lofty building originally designed for defence, and, as such, attached to and forming part of the fortifications of a city or castle. Towers do not seem to have existed in Egypt, but in Mesopotamia from the earliest times they form the most important feature in the city walls, and are shown in the bas-reliefs of the Assyrian palaces at Nimroud and elsewhere. The earliest representation is perhaps that engraved on the tablet in the lap of Gudea the priest king of Lagash (2700 B.C.), whose statue, found at Tello, is now in the Louvre; the drawing is that of a large fortified enclosure, with gates, bastions and towers, corresponding with remains of similar structures of the same and later periods. In the discoveries made here, at Susa and at Dom Sargoukin, the towers were about 40 ft. square, projecting from 16 to 20 ft. in front of the curtain walls which connected them, and standing about 80 ft. apart. In Roman and Byzantine times this distance was increased, owing probably to the greater speed of projectiles, and in the wall built by Theodosius at Constantinople the towers were 150 ft. apart (see also Castle and Fortification).

From the architectural point of view, the towers which are of chief interest are those of ecclesiastical and secular buildings, those in Italy being nearly always isolated and known as campanile (see Campanile). In England the earliest known are the Anglo-Saxon towers, the best examples of which are those at Earl’s Barton, Monkwearmouth, Barnack, Barton-on-Humber and Sompting; they were nearly always square on plan and situated at the west end, in an axial line with the nave, their chief characteristics being the long-and-short work of the masonry at the quoins, the decoration of the wall with thin pilaster strips, and the slight setting back of the storeys as they rose. There are a few examples of central Anglo-Saxon towers, as at St Mary’s, Dover; Breamore, Hants; and Dunham Major, Norfolk; and, combined with western towers, at Ramsay and Ely; twin western towers existed at Exeter. Contemporary with these Saxon towers are many examples in France, but they are invariably central towers, as at Germigny-des-Pres and at Querqueville in Normandy; in Germany the twin towers of Aix-la-Chapelle are the best known. As a rule the single western tower is almost confined to England, prior to the end of the 11th century, when there are many examples throughout Germany. In Norman times in England, central towers are more common, and the same obtains in France, where, however, they are sometimes carried to a great height, as at Périgueux, where the wall decoration consists of pilasters in the lower storeys, and semi-detached columns above, probably based on that of the Roman amphitheatre there: otherwise the design of the Romanesque church towers is extremely simple, depending for its effect on the good masonry and the enrichment of the belfry windows. In later periods flat buttresses are introduced, and these gradually assume more importance and present many varieties of design; greater apparent height is given to the tower by the string courses dividing the second storeys, and by rich blank arcading on them, the upper storey with the belfry windows forming always the most important feature of the tower. In those towers which are surmounted by spires (q.v.) the design of the latter possesses sometimes a greater interest both in England and France. A very large number of the towers of English cathedrals and churches have flat roofs enclosed with lofty battlement ed parapets and numerous pinnacles and finials; in France such terminations are not found, and in Germany the high pitched roof is prevalent every where, so that the numerous examples in England have a special interest; sometimes the angle buttresses are grouped to carry octagonal pinnacles, and sometimes, as at Lincoln and Salisbury, octagonal turrets rise from the base of the tower.

Among the finest examples are those of Canterbury, Ely, York, Gloucester, Lincoln and Worcester cathedrals; among churches, those of the minster at Beverley; St Mary’s, St Neots (Huntingdonshire); St Stephen’s, Bristol, St Giles, Wrexham (Denbighshire—in many respects the most beautiful in England); St Mary Magdalene, Taunton; Magdalen College, Oxford, St Botolph, Boston, crowned with an octagonal tower; St Mary’s, Ilminster (Somersetshire) and Malvern (Worcestershire); and the isolated towers at Chichester, Evesham and Bury St Edmund’s.

So far reference has been made only to central and western towers, the latter not always placed, like the Anglo-Saxon towers, in the axial line of the nave, but sometimes on the north or south side of the west end; and as a rule these are only found in England. In France and Germany, however, they are greatly increased in number; thus in Reims seven towers with spires were contemplated, according to Viollet-le-Duc, but never completed; at Chartres eight towers, and at Laon seven, of which six are completed; in Germany the cathedrals of Mayence and Spires and two of the churches in Cologne have from four to seven towers; and at Tournai cathedral, in Belgium, are seven towers. In many of the churches in Norfolk and Suffolk the western tower is circular, owing probably to the fact that, being built with stone of small dimensions, the angles of the quoins would have been difficult to construct. In some of the French towns, isolated towers were built to contain bells, and were looked upon as municipal constructions; of these there are a few left, as at Béthune, Évreux, Amiens and Bordeaux, the latter being a double tower, with the bells placed in a roof between them.

The towers of secular buildings are chiefly of the town halls, of which there are numerous examples throughout France and Belgium, such as those of the hôtel de ville at St Antonin (13th century) and Compiègne, both in France; at Lübeck, Danzig and Münster in Germany; and Brussels, Bruges and Oudenarde in Belgium.  (R. P. S.)