Near the hamlet of Blackborough in Devon’s Blackdown Hills, remnants of the local Whetstone mining industry can be found in the woodland. A battered pile of stones could be assumed to be another relic, but the more curious visitor will be intrigued to discover that it is marked on old maps as ‘Garnsey’s Tower’.
Jack the Treacle Eater, Barwick Park, Somerset
This unique structure, topped with a statue, stands close to Yeovil, in Somerset, one of a small group of curious constructions erected in Barwick Park. The folly was probably built by John Newman (1717-1799) in the middle of the 18th century, but by the early 20th century it had become know as ‘Jack the Treacle Eater’ and strange stories were told about Jack’s career and nocturnal activities.
The Summerhouse, Yealand Conyers, Lancashire.
High above the village of Yealand Conyers in Lancashire could once be found this pretty little summerhouse. It was built to take advantage of the ‘extensive and picturesque views of the adjacent bay of Morecambe, and the bold and much admired Mountain Scenery of Cumberland and Westmorland’.
The Clock Tower, Little Ellingham Hall, Norfolk
In the 1850s John Tingey, a Norfolk merchant with a passion for agriculture, began to develop a small estate in the village of Little Ellingham near Attleborough, in Norfolk. Despite investing heavily in new buildings and technology, he was not the owner of the land, and claimed his vast complex of farm buildings was the largest range ‘ever erected by a tenant farmer in England’. But the practical Tingey wasn’t averse to a little bit of ornament, as this clock tower/cottage curiosity attests.
The Flâneuse is travelling far and wide this month in search of follies, and the results of her research will appear here very soon. Until she gets home, and gathers her thoughts, here are the highlights of a very recent day in the Cotswolds with members of the Folly Fellowship.
The Ruins, Sydenham Hill, London
Tucked in woodland off Sydenham Hill in south London sits a sham ruin. Although it is now hard to imagine, it was once a feature of the ‘beautiful grounds’ of Fairwood, an elegant newly-built villa. This area of London was very much in vogue in the middle of the 19th century, after the arrival of the relocated Crystal Palace put it on the map, and Sydenham Hill became home to a number of distinguished family homes.
The Folly, Hodnet Hall, Hodnet, Shropshire
In a field close across the road from the principal entrance to Hodnet Hall in Shropshire are what appear to be the remains of a classical temple. Three Ionic columns are intact, two of which support a fragment of pediment, and a fourth pillar is in ruins. But whilst the columns are Georgian in date, this is not the ruin of an 18th century landscape ornament, for the eye-catcher was only erected in the 1960s.
The Prospect Tower, Cotehele, Cornwall
Cotehele stands just on the Cornwall side of the river Tamar that forms the boundary with Devon. The estate was the ancient seat of the Edgcumbes, but by the 18th century it was a secondary residence, with the family preferring nearby Mount Edgcumbe, overlooking Plymouth Sound. On high ground above the house at Cotehele stands this solitary three-sided tower, of which little seems to be known. No inscriptions give even a hint of its history.
Twizel Castle, Duddo, Northumberland.
In the furthest reaches of Northumberland, close to the Scottish border, stands the romantic ruin of an ancient family seat. This is not a particularly unusual sight in this region of skirmishes and sackings, so why has this particular building become known as a folly? It is of course an elegant eye-catcher, seen over the single span of the ancient bridge over the river Till, but there is more to the story, and as Barbara Jones wrote, Twizel Castle falls into the ‘foolishness-type folly’ category – a picturesque but purposeless palace.
Duke of Sutherland Obelisk, Lilleshall, Shropshire.
In July 1833 the 1st Duke of Sutherland died. Tenants on his estates in Staffordshire (Trentham), Scotland (Dunrobin) and Shropshire quickly made plans to commemorate the man they considered a benevolent landlord – according to the inscriptions that is: the Duke was not quite as revered as the tributes might suggest. In Shropshire the tenants on the Lilleshall estate decided to erect an obelisk on Lilleshall Hill, high above the village, and by November the foundation stone had been laid. By the end of the century the obelisk had been struck by lightning (twice) and had caused some embarrassment for the editor of a local paper.