The Ruined Castle in the grounds of Hagley Hall, near Stourbridge in Worcestershire, was built by Sir Thomas Lyttleton (1685-1751) in 1747-48 as a feature to be visited, and seen as a prospect, on a walk around his park. His eldest son, George Lyttelton (1709-1773), was probably a driving influence, and together they created one of the most perfect sham ruins in Britain.
For centuries tall towers have been used for communicating: first via flags, beacons and semaphore, and then later by radio waves. In the late 20th century came the rapid expansion of mobile phone technology, with the service providers keen to find lofty locations to mount masts. Most are a simple metal pylon, whilst others are disguised (with varying degrees of success) as trees. And some have found a home in a folly – ancient or modern.
Thistleberry House (aka Thistlebury) was the home of Samuel (1767-1838) and Margaret Mayer (?-1859). Samuel Mayer was a tanner and currier, and town dignitary, who was elected Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1833. He is said to have erected this pretty tower in his grounds in the first decades of the 19th century.
As summer turned to autumn The Folly Flâneuse was reminded of a jolly jaunt to Jupiter Artland, a sculpture garden just outside Edinburgh, on a glorious day a year ago. A highlight was Pablo Bronstein’s Rose Walk, a pair of pavilions terminating a 25 metre long rose garden, their white-painted tracery magnificent against a clear blue sky.
Newton Surmaville, just outside Yeovil, was bought by the Harbin family in the early 1600s, and they immediately set about constructing a very handsome new house. Sometime in the middle of the following century they added this summerhouse on Newton Hill, high above the house, and the story locally is that it was one of a trio of towers in the area, used by their owners to flag the message that it was time to ‘gallop over for a convivial evening’.
In the early 19th century the Reverend William Wordsworth (1783-1869) built an observatory on high land near the village of Monk Bretton. The lofty landmark was demolished in the mid-20th century, and is known today only from a few photographs.
High above the wonderfully scenic A712 from New Galloway to Newton Stewart, in the Scottish Lowlands, stands this granite monument. After a stiff climb up the hillside the views are breathtaking in both senses: the ascent will leave you short of breath, but you will gasp in awe at the views.
In the late 18th century industry was booming in the area around Swansea in Wales. Ever more sophisticated machines were powering the various works, and coal was required to fuel the industry. With copper works and coal mines, John Morris was a wealthy man and lived in style at the newly-built Clasemont , a grand classical mansion. The unusual structure he had constructed to house some of his workers was also eye-catching, but within decades it was dismissed as a folly.
In the first half of the 19th century the Airmyn estate, on a bend in the river Aire, was owned by George Percy, the 2nd earl of Beverley (1778-1867), a grandson of the 1st duke of Northumberland. He was admired as a benevolent landlord who took care of his tenants, and in 1834 he endowed the village with a Sunday School. In the mid 1860s the tenants ‘unanimously decided to erect a testimonial’ in honour of his ‘kindness and liberality’. This tribute took the form of a charming clocktower, far from folly, but an ornament to this tranquil and very pretty riverside village.
The fact that a building in the Albano hills above Rome has been known since the 18th century as the ‘so called’ mausoleum of the Horatii and Curiatii speaks volumes: it was in fact constructed on the Appian Way centuries after the legendary rival Horatii and Curiatii triplets are said to have battled for their pride and people. But the legend and the sham sepulchre must have made an impression: back home in England it inspired at least three monuments in landscape gardens.