A historical connection between Great Britain and Albania is gradually disintegrating.
When we spent several days visiting the northern Albanian city of Shkodër in 2016, we often noticed what appeared to be a mock mediaeval clock tower topped with crenellations. Finding this building in the town centre took a bit of doing even though we were often very close to it.
The tower is attached to a two-storey stone building with shuttered windows. This house was built in the nineteenth century by an Englishman named ‘Lord Paget’. The Shkodër based photographers, the Marubi brothers, produced a picture entitled Major George Thomas Cavendish Paget in Albanian Costume. According to his obituary in the London Times dated 30th January 1939, he was born in 1853, and was in northern Albania at the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish War in 1897. Robert Elsie wrote in his A Biographical Dictionary of Albanian History:
“Paget settled in Shkodra where he lived sporadically in the so-called Paget Villa that was financed by his father as a headquarters for Protestant missionaries…”
His father was General Lord Alfred Henry Paget (1816-1888), who built an Anglican church in Shkodër in about 1868 as well as the villa. Protestantism did not catch on in northern Albania where most of the Christians were Roman Catholic. However, today Protestant missionaries are again active in the region.
In the 1940s, Edith Durham(1863-1944), an anthropologist and keen supporter of the Albanian people, wrote in an article that “George Paget’s house in Shkodër” was still standing. It continues to do so today long after her death. George Paget, like Edith Durham, was a member of the Albanian Committee in London, which was a forerunner of the still extant Anglo-Albanian Association that was founded around 1913. Paget’s villa in Shkodër used to house an ethnographic museum until 1990. Long before that, its tower, known in Albanian as ‘Kulla inglizit’ (the Englishman’s Tower), had clocks, the outlines of which can still be seen. After WW2, the building was nationalised and used as a museum. Following the Communist dictator Enver Hoxha’s orders, the clocks were removed and may well have been installed in the castle of Gjirokastër.
Currently, the fabric of the Englishman’s Tower is deteriorating. The British Embassy in Tirana is aware of this, and concerned about the condition of a building that historically links Albania and the UK. Someone who works in the embassy kindly sent me the translation of a recently written technical report about the tower and its attached residence.
In brief, there are cracks in many parts of the tower’s masonry, and some degradation of the mortar holding the tower together. Both the tower and the attached Paget’s former residence are affected. Repairs and restoration could be achieved by cleaning, disinfection, and then injecting lime mortar. In addition, decorative details, both internal and external, need repairing. Carrying out this restoration and financing it is complicated by the fact that the property is owned by not one but several people.
Here in the UK, the Anglo-Albanian Association, of which I am a member, is exploring the possibility of assisting in the project of restoring this fascinating historical monument once the practical details of how this is to be effected, and by whom, have been determined.