North Essex has a huge number of interesting historic buildings to visit - and the Naze Tower on the coast of the county is among the most unusual.

It is only in recent years, however, it has been possible to go inside the Hanoverian Tower and climb the 111-step spiral staircase to get to the top.

But those who brave it are rewarded with panoramic views across the Naze and beyond as the 86ft tower has a 360degree view of the beach and countryside.

The present tower was built between 1720 and 1721 and historians say it was intended to work in conjunction with Walton Hall Tower to guide vessels through the Goldmer Gap.

Towers at Naze and at Walton Hall are marked on a map of 1673 by Richard Blome, which in turn was based on a map drawn up in the late 1500s, which indicate the current Naze Tower replaced an earlier construction at a similar location.

Ships using Harwich port also used it and both the new, and earlier, towers had beacons or lamps which were lit at the top and made it a prototype lighthouse in many ways.

During its long history, the tower - the only one of its kind to have survived - has had a number of uses, including as a tea house in the 18th century.

This was run by a lady called Martha Ray, who was an actress and aristocrat’s mistress at that time.

She was at the centre of a major scandal in the late 1700s when she was murdered in Covent Garden.

During the Napoleonic Wars, it provided a perfect lookout and was once again put to use for the same purpose during the First World War between 1914 and 1918.

In the Second World War, it was used as a radar station, with its crenellations removed to accommodate a radar dish and by 1984 it had been awarded Grade II listed status by English Heritage.

For the past 33 years it has been privately owned and in the early 2000s a programme of major refurbishment began, resulting in the public being allowed to access the tower for the first time ever in 2004.

At one point the tower was in danger of falling into the sea, but a major project completed in 2011 saved it and the surrounding land.

The £1.2million Crag Walk scheme saw more than 20,000 tonnes of granite rocks placed at the base of the cliffs to protect them from the waves.

Huge blocks were shipped over from Norway and put in place and a 500ft walkway built along the top of the defences so visitors can now reach the cliffs where there are 50million-year-old fossils.

Inside the tower there is now an art gallery and a tea room, in keeping with its 18th century use, as well as a museum on the one of the floors, which allows visitors to find out its back story, and that of the area it stands in.

Visitors can also walk to the pill boxes, now covered in seaweed, which would have been used during the Second World War.

It costs £2 for children and £3 for adults to go up to the top of the Naze Tower between the end of March and October 31.

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