In the mid-19th century, the inhabitants of the rapidly-expanding town of Nottingham could spend their leisure hours at the Radford Grove Tavern and Tea Gardens. Here they could row on the lake, attend dances, and admire the view from the roof of a very pretty ‘Octagonal Pleasure House’.
In the middle of the 18th century, Viscount Bateman of Shobdon Court decided to remodel the Romanesque church on his estate. Demolishing all but the tower, he created an enchanting building with exquisite interiors in the fashionable gothick style. Although later accused of ‘wanton destruction’, Bateman did at least recognise the value of fragments of the earlier church, and had them re-erected as an eye-catcher at the end of an avenue in the park.
High above the town of Buxton, in Derbyshire, stands a squat circular belvedere known as Grinlow Tower, after the hill on which it stands, or, more usually, as Solomon’s Temple. It was built by public subscription in 1896, replacing an earlier structure that had collapsed. But as is so often the case with folly towers, sorting the fact from the fiction is quite a challenge.
Sir Charles Barry is usually remembered as the architect of grand Victorian edifices like the Palace of Westminster, and for remodelling country houses such as Trentham in Staffordshire and Harewood in Yorkshire. But he was also happy to take on smaller projects, and in 1845 this elegant obelisk was erected to his design in a distant corner of the Bowood estate of the Marquess of Lansdowne.
Bretton Hall, near Wakefield, is now best known as the home of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where artworks have been displayed in the open air, and in purpose built galleries, since 1977. But long before these works arrived, the park was home to a collection of ornamental garden buildings, including the enchanting tiered tower called Bella Vista.
High above the valley of the River Towy stands a sturdy, and seemingly invincible, tower. It was built to commemorate Admiral Lord Nelson, but within a century it was falling into decay, and it only narrowly escaped conversion into a cowshed.
Conishead Priory, as the name suggests, was a religious house, but after the dissolution it became a private home. In the middle of the 18th century it was home to Thomas Braddyll (1730-1776) who created new pleasure grounds around the Priory, including a number of ornamental features.
The Folly Flâneuse is taking a short break to enjoy the last of the sunshine (hopefully). So a brief post this week looking at Ralph Allen’s wonderful Sham Castle, high above the city of Bath.
It’s a bit of a steep hike up the hill from the city centre, but one can’t get lost…
The folly was built by Ralph Allen of nearby Prior Park in 1762. A plaque records that it was restored and given to the people of Bath in 1921.
The folly is a highlight of the National Trust’s ‘Bath Skyline Walk’ which gives stunning views over the city.
Thanks for reading. The Folly Flâneuse will be back with a full-length folly feature next week. Enjoy the changing of the seasons as summer mellows into autumn.
Denton Welch was a talented artist and writer, but his career was sadly cut short by his early death in 1948. A few years before he died he described an ornate 18th century grotto in one of his novels: the fabulous grotto was for real, but it was demolished in the same year that Welch died, making his description all the more poignant.
Sir Clough Williams-Ellis is best remembered for the enchanting fantasy village of Portmeirion in North Wales. But not far away is Plas Brondanw, his own home, where he created an intimate garden, and high above the house constructed a magnificent folly.