Earl Grey Tower – Stanton Lees, England - Atlas Obscura

Stanton Lees, England

Earl Grey Tower

This tower was constructed to commemorate the man who helped bring true democracy to the United Kingdom. 

Many people think of Magna Carta as being the origins of British democracy, but it really did little more than establish, in law, the privileges of the already privileged. A much larger step toward democracy in the United Kingdom was the Great Reform Act of 1832. 

Prior to this act, voting rights were restricted to people who had significant property interests. This denied the right to vote for a large portion of the population. It was made even worse by an unfair system of constituencies, where some returned two Members of Parliament with only a handful of voters. Combined with a lack of ballot secrecy, many votes were also purchased. These were known as “Rotten Boroughs.”

The 1832 act reformed the English constituencies and reduced the required property qualifications. These changes expanded the electorate by about 50%. 

However, the passage of the act was not the end of the story, as the idea of “universal suffrage ” was not applied. Men also still had to hold property worth at least £10 to vote. Around 1 in 5 adult males were allowed to vote. It wasn’t until 1918 that all property qualifications for voting were removed. By 1928, all women could vote. The 1832 act was the first real recognition that the electoral system in Britain needed to be reformed.

The person most responsible for this act was Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, Whig prime minister at the time.

The tower was constructed to commemorate the act and to honor Grey who introduced the legislation. It was built by one of his supporters, Lieutenant Colonel Thornhills, who lived nearby.

Earl Grey Tower is one name (most commonly used on maps), but the alternative name, the Reform Tower, is often used locally. The square stone tower sits on the edge of Stanton Moor in Derbyshire. It’s a rather plain square tower and is gradually falling into a state of decay, however, its social significance is immense.

Know Before You Go

Because of safety concerns, the entrance door to the base of the tower has been bricked up.

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