The arrival of an updated volume in the Buildings of England series is always a cause for celebration. Better known simply as ‘Pevsners’, after Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983), the author of the earliest volumes, the books are regularly revised. The latest volume to be painstakingly brought up to date covers the county of Wiltshire, and is the work of Julian Orbach. The first edition of the Wiltshire volume appeared in 1963, and was close to Pevsner’s heart, as he had a home in Clyffe Pypard where he and his family spent much of their time: his dedication calls Wiltshire ‘the county of the cottage’.
On the edge of Alnwick, in Northumberland, stood Swansfield House, an elegant villa that in the late 18th century was home to Henry Collingwood Selby (1748-1839), agent to the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland of Alnwick Castle. Following the lead of his monument-building patrons, he embellished his small estate with a tower, a column, and a curious gothic structure.
One of the most curious collections of structures in Britain can be found on a ridge behind the house called Sorrelsykes*, near Aysgarth in North Yorkshire. Often cited as fine examples of follies because of their strange form, and apparent lack of function, the eccentric edifices seem to have lost their history. What are they? Who built them? When? And above all why?
In 1738 Langley Park was purchased by the 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706-1758), and one of his first projects was the construction of an elegant casino with views to Windsor Castle. In the middle of the 19th century that temple was demolished, and replaced by an equally charming monumental column. That too survived for only a century, but happily a pictorial record helps tell the story.
Brizlee Tower* stands high on Brizlee Hill, near Alnwick, and overlooks Hulne Park, a detached pleasure ground close to the Duke of Northumberland’s principal park at Alnwick Castle. It was built in the late 18th century as a prospect tower and eye-catcher, and also as an object to be visited on a drive from the castle through Hulne Park. The park was designed by ‘the inimitable Brown’, aka Capability, working with local engineers and designers, and was also home to the ruins of mediaeval Hulne Abbey, embellished and repurposed by the Duke and Duchess as a banqueting house, pleasure garden and menagerie for exotic pheasants. This is one of The Folly Flâneuse’s favourite follies: the detail is just so joyful, or as historian Alistair Rowan so wonderfully put it: ‘at Brizlee there is fantasy and flamboyance’.
In the middle of the 18th century the area around Dunston was unenclosed heath, and travel was a dirty and dangerous business, especially in the dark winter months. Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781), 2nd baronet, of West Wycombe and Hell-fire Club fame, came into property in the area when he married Sarah Ellys of nearby Nocton in 1745. Dashwood erected the Dunston Pillar in 1751 as a beacon to guide ‘the peasant, the wayfaring stranger, and the horseman with his dame on pillion’.
Halifax has been much in the news recently following the restoration of the wondrous Piece Hall, a Georgian cloth trading centre on a monumental scale. But the town is also home to another amazing structure, the Wainhouse Tower, one of the country’s finest follies. Factory chimney turned witness to wealth, it thrusts 253 feet into the sky above the town.
The group of follies and monuments at Wentworth Woodhouse needs little introduction, being one of the finest collections of landscape ornaments in Britain. So this post is just an opportunity for The Folly Flâneuse to remind you that you can climb the Hoober Stand and admire the Monument on bank holidays and Sundays from Spring Bank holiday until late August. And also to use some photographs taken during the wonderful March heatwave.
A brief post this week as The Folly Flâneuse has been racing around at a somewhat faster pace than her usual omnipercipient strolling. However, the lovely images by John Piper will make up for the paucity of words.
After the Easter heatwave the weather broke just as The Folly Flâneuse arrived at Stowe – the photo above shows the view from the grotto, which gave some much needed protection from one of the heaviest of the showers. On the plus side, no-one else was about, and The Folly Flâneuse had Stowe all to herself.
Now near neighbour to a Rotherham suburb, Keppel’s Column originally stood in open ground on the edge of Scholes Wood on the Wentworth Woodhouse estate. An obelisk had been proposed for the site as early as 1769. Its original purpose was as an eye-catcher to terminate the southern vista from the new principal front of the Wentworth House mansion, balancing the pyramidal Hoober Stand to the north which is dated 1748. Keppel’s Column was clearly visible from the top of Hoober Stand, as was the Lady’s Folly, which featured here recently https://thefollyflaneuse.com/ladys-folly-tankersley-south-yorkshire/. All three ornamental buildings could be seen from each other, and when guests were taken by carriage to climb a tower, or take tea in a summer house, they served to display the vast size of the Marquis of Rockingham’s estate.