The Tower of Refuge is the structure built upon it by Sir William Hillary (who helped to found the Royal National Lifeboat Institution) in 1824. Having witnessed several shipwrecks upon the semi-submerged rock, he intended it as a refuge for survivors until help could arrive. He helped secure public contributions for funding the building and contributed a high proportion of the costs personally. The islet itself was privately owned, but was contributed by its owner. In the years shortly after its construction, it continued to be well stocked with provisions such as bread and fresh water.
The refuge is designed to look like a castle, by architect John Welch (also responsible for the design of other landmark buildings on the Isle of Man). The tower originally housed a bell for summoning of help and was stocked with dry provisions for the use of casualties.