Fonthill Abbey

William Lisle Bowles

The mighty master waved his wand, and, lo!
On the astonished eye the glorious show
Burst like a vision! Spirit of the place!
Has the Arabian wizard with his mace
Smitten the barren downs, far onward spread,
And bade the enchanted palace rise instead?
Bade the dark woods their solemn shades extend
High to the clouds yon spiry tower ascend?
And starting from the umbrageous avenue
Spread the rich pile, magnificent to view?
Enter! from the arched portal look again
Back on the lessening woods and distant plain!
Ascend the steps! the high and fretted roof
Is woven by some elfin hand aloof:
Whilst from the painted windows' long array
A mellow light is shed as not of day.
How gorgeous all! O, never may the spell
Be broken that arrayed those radiant forms so well!

The third house on the site, Fonthill Abbey was the massive Gothic folly of the wealthy plantation owner (and novelist) William Beckford. He lived there alone and only once received guests - Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton in 1800. 

The immense tower of the building collapsed three times before the house was finally allowed to wither away. Only a small part is still standing today.