Buzza Tower Being Brought Back To Life

buzza tower andrew combes 2Anyone taking a stroll around Buzza Tower recently will have noticed activity in the building and the surrounding area.

Andrew Combes has been working hard to turn the neglected structure, which was originally built as a windmill in 1813, into a camera obscura.

He was granted a lease to the tower from the Council last year. They were looking for someone to make use of the building.

And, after a lengthy and controversial planning process, Andrew was eventually given permission for the scheme by the planning inspectorate in November. Since then he’s been busy making the building safe.

The tower is Grade II listed and leased to Andrew for a peppercorn rent on the proviso that he maintains it in good structural order.

But that’s a painstaking and expensive process although he says he’s getting lots of advice from English Heritage on areas such as pointing of the stonework.

From Radio Scilly

Andrew Combes discusses his plans for Buzza Tower

Andrew says the timber floor was collapsing after 40 years of rain getting in, and had to be removed. He’s also getting ready to tackle the eight-inch-thick reinforced concrete roof, which he says is only supported by some ‘very rotten’ steel beams.

Eventually, the tower will have a new first floor, accessed by a steep ladder, where the image from the camera obscura will be projected. There’ll also be an upper floor gallery containing the hole in the roof for the light to enter.

Andrew says he’s also hoping to install an old-fashioned ‘cabinet of curiosities’ containing interesting items from the islands, although he’s not sure what will be in there yet and is keen to hear from anyone who has any curios they’d like to display. This could include old images and recollections of the tower.

Andrew says a lot of people have stopped him while he’s been working to recall their memories of the tower including someone who was shot at there from a German fighter in World War II.

The area surrounding the tower is also being cleared, partly to restore it to its grazed state, as seen in old photo’s from the 1950’s, and partly to discourage some of the less savoury activities that have been taking place there.

He says he’s already removed 19 bin bags full of beer bottles and cans from the area, as well as items of litter discarded by ‘romantic activities’ there and large quantities of dog faeces.

It’s a huge task, says Andrew, but bit-by-bit he’s revealing some of the hidden history of the tower, like the granite cobblestones and steps around the base.

The original seating had been covered with plywood, which he wants to remove, and he says the wood below has some ‘interesting’ graffiti carved into it, probably by people who are now elder statesmen and women on the islands!

Eventually, Andrew says, he wants the area around the tower to be a nice place for people to stop and admire the view or have a picnic.

He’s hoping to have the structure fixed by Easter, but says getting the lens made for the camera obscura by a specialist in Lincolnshire will take the longest time, as it has to be tailor-made for the tower.

Which means that sometime this summer, Scilly’s newest tourist attraction could be up and running in one of it’s most iconic buildings.


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