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History repeating twin water towers built by Victorian industrialist Samuel Courtauld to supply his Essex silk mills listed for £1.6m

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Thu 06 Dec 2018

History repeating twin water towers built by Victorian industrialist Samuel Courtauld to supply his Essex silk mills listed for £1.6m

Courtauld was a ‘benevolent despot’ who built workers’ cottages, schools and a hospital but refused to allow any trade union activity.


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A pair of historic 19th-century water towers in the middle of the Essex countryside are for sale for £1.6m.

The towers – in Halstead, Essex – were built in the mid-1800s and supplied water to local textile factories owned by leading Victorian industrialist Samuel Courtauld. 

Samuel Courtauld was born in New York in 1793 and during his lifetime turned his father’s ailing silk-weaving business into one of the UK’s leading textile firms. 

The Courtauld family arrived in England from France at the end of the 17th century as Huguenot refugees. 

The first tower was built in the mid-1800s

Samuel’s father George was apprenticed to a silk weaver in Spitalfields in 1775 at the age of 14. George made his way to New York and in 1789 met his wife, Ruth, there.

The family returned to England shortly after Samuel was born and George set up a water-powered silk mill in Pebmarsh, Essex, just a few miles from Halstead.

By 1816 the company was in trouble and an ambitious young Samuel, then in his mid-20s, took over. 

In 1830 he started producing a black silk fabric that would become the standard mourning dress in Victorian England and generate his huge fortune.

He eventually became one of the area’s biggest employers, with thousands of textile workers, most of whom were women. 

By the time Samuel died in 1881 he left an estate worth £700,000 – approximately £63m in today’s money.

The Courtauld family has a long history of philanthropy and a number of funds still benefit local residents today.

Fast forward almost 140 years and the current owners of the towers – a couple working in the music business – have put them on the market, giving someone an opportunity to own these incredible pieces of British industrial history.


The towers were converted in 2008 by a developer and the current owners have lived there since the conversion was completed.

The main tower is spread across six floors, with a massive glass-fronted archway – spread across two levels – acting as a jaw-dropping entrance.

The second, one-bedroom tower is self-contained and could be rented out for around £850 a month.

The striking interior style – including a number of highly-collectible original West End theatre signs – is a result of the owners’ decades of working in the music business. 

As they are planning to downsize they are willing to include some of the statement pieces in the sale, subject to negotiation.

With four bedrooms, gallery balconies and lots of open-plan areas it would make a perfect country retreat for someone who likes to entertain – in fact, the current owners have thrown parties for up to 250 people there over the years.


The fifth floor features a 10 metre atrium with a glass roof and a staircase that leads to a show-stopping roof terrace with incredible views across the surrounding countryside.

As well as the main stairs, there’s even a secret spiral staircase running from top to bottom, offering those in the know an opportunity to ascend – or descend – with complete discretion.

Outside, the gravelled courtyard is entered via electric gates and there’s a double garage – also electrically operated – a lawn and a patio with an outside pizza oven.

There’s a private airfield close by and Stanstead airport is only 25 minutes away.

Click through the gallery above to see more pictures, or visit Heritage for more info.

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