North Yorkshire, Tower

Bambro’ Castle, Howsham, North Yorkshire

Barbara Jones, the first person to write a comprehensive account of follies in Britain, saw this building and was underwhelmed. In the 1953 first edition of Follies & Grottoes she described it as ‘gutted’ and full of pigeon’s nests, and concluded that ‘no amount of bird life can divest this folly of its ordinariness’. If only she had seen it in its prime; a sketch by the itinerant artist and drawing master J.C. Nattes dated 1807 shows an enchanting little building.

Courtesy Manchester Art Gallery

Bambro’ Castle, as it was called, was named in honour of the Bamburgh family, former owners of Howsham. It is not recorded if the builder, Nathaniel Cholmley, was consciously allying his diminutive structure with the somewhat grander Bamburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast. It was probably constructed in the second half of the 18th century, and the gothic detail is similar to that on the nearby Howsham Mill which is attributed to John Carr of York.

The folly served a dual purpose. By day, it was a summer-house for refreshments when riding through the ornamental woodland on the Howsham estate. Furnished with an octagonal mahogany dining table and all the paraphernalia for serving tea and cake it must have been an idyllic retreat. As night fell it became an observatory and housed a ‘very large Tellescope’.

Jones was one of the last to record the building. Soon after it deteriorated further and was eventually demolished as the ornamental woodland gave way to commercial forestry. Visitors in the 1980s were sad to find it gone.

Surely Barbara Jones was let down by her memory? The two photos above are from from her own files (generously shared from a private collection). How could she describe this folly as ordinary?

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4 thoughts on “Bambro’ Castle, Howsham, North Yorkshire”

  1. E says:

    Hi Karen, Loving your folly Flaneuse. Have you recorded the folly on the descent from Roseberry Topping. Not exciting but an enjoyable walk.

    Happy New Year and hope your husband’s ankle mended. I know these can take a long time as my husband did same.

    Caroline Kernan

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Caroline. I love that little shooting box on Roseberry Topping. Thanks for prompting me I will revisit. Husband much improved thanks. Happy new year.

  2. PaulvWest says:

    Not sure if I saw the ruins in the 1970’s
    I used to go on holiday to my Grandparents in Howsham.
    My cousin and I played soldiers in the woods.
    We played around some brick building ruins in the woods not far from a road.
    We asked an old lady called Miss Watson who might have been perhaps 80 years old it was hard to tell, folks look older when you are a kid.
    She said the ruins were an old Summer House and suggested that they were used when she was young.
    Miss Watson might have been born in the late 1890’s

    1. Editor says:

      Good morning Paul. It sounds as if you did find the dilapidated folly. Lucky you to be able to play in the woods at Howsham, and well done Miss Watson for telling you the building’s history.

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