In 1954 Agatha Christie wrote a novella which was intended to raise money for her local church. Upon completion she was so taken with the story that she decided to develop it into a full novel, and submitted a different story to the fundraising effort. The work she had originally written was called Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly, and this work was expanded and eventually published in 1956 as Dead Man’s Folly.
Until the middle of the 19th century visitors to Harewood House, near Leeds, could open the doors of the Saloon (today known as the Main Library) on the piano nobile and ‘walk out upon the fine portico’. From there they could admire the lake and plantations created by the finest landscape designers of the 18th century, and on the horizon they would glimpse a fine domed temple.
On a hilltop near the village of Hermitage, a few miles from Newbury, are the remains of an early Iron Age hillfort which became known as Grimsbury Castle. Close by is a battlemented structure, also called Grimsbury Castle, but this one only pretends to antiquity, being a diminutive sham castle built to house a gamekeeper.
The Folly Flâneuse celebrated her birthday this week, and what better way to mark the occasion than with an enormous cake? Although sadly, this one is not edible. As many of the buildings featured in these pages are gone, it was a real birthday treat to see this new folly, recently constructed to ornament the Waddesdon landscape.
This unique structure, topped with a statue, stands close to Yeovil, in Somerset, one of a small group of curious constructions erected in Barwick Park. The folly was probably built by John Newman (1717-1799) in the middle of the 18th century, but by the early 20th century it had become know as ‘Jack the Treacle Eater’ and strange stories were told about Jack’s career and nocturnal activities.
High above the village of Yealand Conyers in Lancashire could once be found this pretty little summerhouse. It was built to take advantage of the ‘extensive and picturesque views of the adjacent bay of Morecambe, and the bold and much admired Mountain Scenery of Cumberland and Westmorland’.
In the 1850s John Tingey, a Norfolk merchant with a passion for agriculture, began to develop a small estate in the village of Little Ellingham near Attleborough, in Norfolk. Despite investing heavily in new buildings and technology, he was not the owner of the land, and claimed his vast complex of farm buildings was the largest range ‘ever erected by a tenant farmer in England’. But the practical Tingey wasn’t averse to a little bit of ornament, as this clock tower/cottage curiosity attests.
The Flâneuse is travelling far and wide this month in search of follies, and the results of her research will appear here very soon. Until she gets home, and gathers her thoughts, here are the highlights of a very recent day in the Cotswolds with members of the Folly Fellowship.
In the furthest reaches of Northumberland, close to the Scottish border, stands the romantic ruin of an ancient family seat. This is not a particularly unusual sight in this region of skirmishes and sackings, so why has this particular building become known as a folly? It is of course an elegant eye-catcher, seen over the single span of the ancient bridge over the river Till, but there is more to the story, and as Barbara Jones wrote, Twizel Castle falls into the ‘foolishness-type folly’ category – a picturesque but purposeless palace.
In July 1833 the 1st Duke of Sutherland died. Tenants on his estates in Staffordshire (Trentham), Scotland (Dunrobin) and Shropshire quickly made plans to commemorate the man they considered a benevolent landlord – according to the inscriptions that is: the Duke was not quite as revered as the tributes might suggest. In Shropshire the tenants on the Lilleshall estate decided to erect an obelisk on Lilleshall Hill, high above the village, and by November the foundation stone had been laid. By the end of the century the obelisk had been struck by lightning (twice) and had caused some embarrassment for the editor of a local paper.