A lonely spire of stone rises from the rocky promontory of Bradda Glen on the Isle of Man, looming over the sleepy village of Port Erin and its namesake bay. While this dark tower might seem at home in a Stephen King novel, or a place to sequester a fairy-tale princess, Milner’s Tower was originally erected to honor (not imprison) a local philanthropist and benefactor.
William Milner was a wealthy safemaker who moved to Port Erin from Liverpool in the mid-1800s to recuperate from an undisclosed illness. Trading the maddening bustle of a major port for a serene seaside hamlet, Milner became enamored with the town. He invested, personally and financially, in the livelihood of the village, with particular care for the local fishermen and impoverished families. By 1871, Milner was so beloved among the community that a tower was commissioned (in secret) and funded (by private donation) to honor his contributions to the people of Port Erin.
Despite the secrecy, Milner learned of the project shortly after construction began, and ended up funding much of the remaining building costs himself as a further gesture of goodwill. Even after his death, three years later, in 1874, Milner donated much of his residual wealth to the building of a church and other charitable activities. It was largely due to his contributions that Port Erin survived and thrived, long after mines on Bradda Head had closed.
The tower’s unique design is an homage to the safe locks that generated Milner’s wealth. Inside, a narrow, claustrophobic stairwell spirals up past moist, dimly lit chambers and airy landings. The tang of sea salt pervades the interior, as brisk ocean breezes sweep through. On a clear day, the view from the tower’s apex toward Port Erin is a picture-perfect snapshot of the sleepy, time-lost community that Milner so loved.