James Wyatt produced plans for a ‘Saxon Hexagon Tower’ for the 6th Earl of Coventry in the last years of the 18th century. After his death in 1809 it was sold and over the following centuries it became the home of a printing workshop, a retreat for members of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a farmhouse. In 1974 it became the centrepiece of a country park, and it remains so today.
Of course nothing you have read above is news. Broadway tower is one of the best loved follies in Britain, having appeared in countless films and tv programmes. The very flexible tower has even featured in a recent advertisement for property developer Aldermore.
The reason The Folly Flâneuse is featuring it here is because without this tower there would not be the book that is by every folly-spotters side: Follies, Grottoes & Garden Buildings.
Broadway Tower captured Gwyn Headley’s imagination as a child and he remained passionate about the subject, first publishing a book about follies in 1986 with Dutchman Wim Meulenkamp as co-author. In FG&GB they updated their original research and presented it in a gazetteer format, so that the book is fabulously user-friendly. 2019 sees the twentieth anniversary of its publication, and The Folly Flâneuse thinks this is a cause for celebration. Cheers!
Gwyn is shown above, aged 5, looking loathe to leave Broadway Tower. Wim’s introduction to the genre came aged 13 when he was intrigued by the sham wooden bridge at Kenwood, near London.
When studying at Utrecht University in the 1970s, Wim took a module on the English landscape park and headed to the library to write a paper on Rousham. On the shelves he discovered Barbara Jones’s Follies and Grottoes and he too was hooked.
His doctoral subject was Mad Jack Fuller, creator of these wonderful follies at Brightling in Sussex, and he recalls that ‘whilst everyone else did their postgraduate theses on colour schemes in Siennese painting 1535-1560, and the like, we actually had inordinate fun.’
A mere two decades later Gwyn Headley and Wim Meulenkamp are working on a new book – good things come to those who wait. In the meantime, you can hear Gwyn and Wim talk at an event organised by The Folly Fellowship in London this autumn. Final details are to be confirmed but keep checking the website for details http://follies.org.uk/index.php/this-year/
More on the Broadway Tower here https://broadwaytower.co.uk
The sham bridge at Kenwood has just emerged from restoration https://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/environment/kenwood-house-sham-bridge-restoration-almost-finished-1-5874808
Ed Kluz, who kindly shared his photos of Brightling is an internationally acclaimed artist whose work often features follies. Visit his website or follow him on instagram @edkluz https://www.edkluz.co.uk. He will reappear in these pages before too long.