On a hilltop near the village of Hermitage, a few miles from Newbury, are the remains of an early Iron Age hillfort which became known as Grimsbury Castle. Close by is a battlemented structure, also called Grimsbury Castle, but this one only pretends to antiquity, being a diminutive sham castle built to house a gamekeeper.
The Folly Flâneuse celebrated her birthday this week, and what better way to mark the occasion than with an enormous cake? Although sadly, this one is not edible. As many of the buildings featured in these pages are gone, it was a real birthday treat to see this new folly, recently constructed to ornament the Waddesdon landscape.
Cothelstone was an ancient seat of the Stawel family. In the second half of the 18th century it was the property of Mary Stawel (1726-1780), the sole surviving direct descendant. In recognition of her ancient lineage, George III made her a baroness in her own right in 1760, with the title to pass to her sons from her first marriage to Henry Bilson Legge, Earl of Dartmouth. After the death of her first husband in 1764, Mary married Wills Hill, the Earl of Hillsborough (he would be created Marquess of Downshire after her death).
On the former Stella Hall estate, high on the south bank of the River Tyne, are the remains of an elegant octagonal pavilion which gave its name to this lofty spot: Summerhouse Hill.
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’.
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.
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’.
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.
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.