Arch, architecture, Banqueting House, country house, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, Hertfordshire, sham castle, Summerhouse

The Folly, Benington Lordship, Hertfordshire

In the grounds of Benington Lordship, an early 18th century mansion near Stevenage in Hertfordshire, is a sham ruin on a grand scale. Constructed in the 1830s it combined the roles of eye-catcher, gateway, smoking room and banqueting hall in one rambling structure.

architecture, Borders, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape garden, Scotland, Summerhouse, Temple

The Temple at The Lees, Coldstream, Borders

In the border town of Coldstream a footpath leads from a lodge down to the river Tweed. The route passes an ice-house shaded by trees before a stroll along the riverbank brings one to an elegant stone temple. The Temple ornamented the landscape of a grand Georgian mansion called The Lees, which was largely pulled down in the 1970s.

The Lees (sometimes just Lees) was the seat of the interrelated Pringle and Marjoribanks (pronounced Marchbanks) family. In 1760 a traveller noted that ‘Mr Pringle has built a handsome house, and made a beautiful plantation’: ‘Mr Pringle’ was James, who died in 1769 leaving the estate to his cousin Edward Marjoribanks.

The temple was extant by 1769 when a historian noted Mr Pringle’s ‘modern seat’ as well as the ‘octagonal tempiato’ on the banks of the river. It is shown as an existing feature on a ‘Design for the improvement of Lees’ by the Edinburgh based designer Richard Stephens (?-1821) dated 1816. Stephens’ family business was in ‘draining, irrigating and embanking’, but he also drew up improvement plans for a small number of Scottish estates.

The Temple is named as such on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of 1858. The map shows the Temple and the Ice House as well as an array of summerhouses and seats that are lost today, and the surveyors preparing the map noted the ‘considerable and well laid out pleasure grounds’. Historic England Scotland incorrectly date the structure to the ‘later 18th century’ and it is listed as Category B.

By the middle of the 20th century the house at The Lees was in a very dilapidated condition and the then owners were only interested in the fishing rights. In 1975, when all attempts to find a buyer or a purpose had been exhausted, permission was granted to demolish. By that date the house was owned by Andrew Douglas-Home, nephew of the former Prime Minister (which information the Flâneuse shares simply so the headline in The Scotsman can be understood: ‘Doom for House of Home’). The paper reported that whilst the Scottish Civic Trust and the Scottish Georgian Society thought the case was ‘one of the saddest ever’, they accepted that there was no alternative to demolition.

The derelict house in the 1970s https://canmore.org.uk/collection/2483132

Douglas-Home had a long term plan to build a new house on the site, and for that reason the circular central section won a reprieve and was left standing.

The central section standing after demolition. The columned section shown in the photo of the mansion above is to the rear. https://canmore.org.uk/file/image/1845697

Towards the end of the 20th century it was incorporated into a new house designed by Nicholas Groves-Raines, which has since been further extended.

The new house incorporating the round section, as seen from the footpath to the Temple.

As briefly mentioned the Tweed is of course famed for salmon, and the wide stretch of river in front of the Temple became known to fishermen as ‘Temple Pool’, as seen in this postcard view (which helpfully points out that in Coldstream the river is the border between Scotland and England).

Looking along the river Tweed from the Temple which is just out of shot bottom right. Card posted in 1921 courtesy of a private collection.

After the Right to Roam was introduced in Scotland Mr Douglas-Home created a footpath through his grounds and down to the river. Walkers are welcome but are requested to keep to the path and to respect the usual rules of the countryside (and to give Mr Douglas-Home a cheery hello if you see him out and about).

Thank you for reading and do please get in touch if you have any thoughts or comments – scroll down to the bottom of the page to make contact.

architecture, garden history, Observatory, Rustic shelter, Summerhouse

The Resiance and The Resianette: two ‘distinctly novel structures’.

In 1903 William Wood and Son, horticultural specialists to His Majesty the King, placed an advertisement in The Garden magazine announcing two new introductions to their range. These were exotically named summerhouses: the ‘Resiance’ and its little sister the ‘Resianette’. The magazine also ran a feature in the same month (actually lifted from a Wood & Son circular), in which the writer announced that ‘we here present two pictures of distinctly novel structures which appear to be very much in advance of ordinary summer houses’.

architecture, Banqueting House, belvedere, country house, garden history, landscape garden, Observatory, public park, Summerhouse, Temple, West Yorkshire

The Temple, Crow Nest Park, Dewsbury

When first built the handsome gazebo in the grounds of Crow Nest in Dewsbury would have had views over the estate’s fine gardens and pleasure grounds. At the end of the 19th century Crow Nest was bought for the people of Dewsbury, and has now been a public park for 130 years. The Temple remains an ornament to the park, but sadly today it has a rather forlorn appearance.

architecture, Cambridgeshire, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Summerhouse

The Arbour, Peckover House, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

In the 18th century Bank House in Wisbech became home to the Peckover family, and as well as providing a family home it housed their banking business, which became a great success. Over time they acquired further land and extended the gardens behind the adjacent properties, and built garden buildings including this striking summerhouse. In 1943 the house and grounds were given to the National Trust by the last surviving descendant, and the property was renamed ‘Peckover House’ to commemorate the family.

architecture, Bedfordshire, eyecatcher, garden history, Greater London, landscape garden, Middlesex, Monument, Obelisk

The Obelisk, Trent Park, Greater London

Obelisks might not seem as exciting as some of the quirkier landscape ornaments, but this one began a particularly interesting life in around 1732. Two hundred years later it was one of a group of monuments from Wrest Park in Bedfordshire that was sold to the wealthy socialite and politician Sir Philip Sassoon, and taken to his seat at Trent Park in Middlesex. There each was carefully placed in the park, and the largest, this substantial obelisk, was re-erected to terminate a new vista cut through the trees.

architecture, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Grotto, landscape, North Yorkshire, Temple

The Grotto Temple, Masham, North Yorkshire

Just over the river Ure from the market town of Masham is this unusual rotunda sitting on top of a rustic grotto. It was designed to take advantage of the view over the river to the church and the attractive little town. An engraved stone near the temple tells us that in 1770 ‘Samuel Wrather built this grotto’.

architecture, country house, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape garden, Monument, Obelisk, Suffolk

The Obelisk, Woolverstone Park, Suffolk

On the banks of the river Orwell in Suffolk there once stood a lofty obelisk. It proclaimed to all the filial piety of Charles Berners, who erected it in 1793 in memory of his father, William. At 96 feet tall, and topped with a golden sun, it was a prominent landmark but sadly it came to a sorry end when it was damaged by fire and then demolished in the middle of the 20th century. But as the image above shows, fragments were salvaged and survive today.

architecture, bridge, garden history, landscape garden, Monument, Obelisk, Rotunda, sham castle, Worcestershire

Hagley Park, Worcestershire

It is getting a bit ‘backendish’ – as they say in Yorkshire – and the Folly Flâneuse is taking a short break. Meanwhile here are some of the wonderful landscape ornaments built by the Lyttelton family at Hagley Park, seen on a perfect autumn day as the leaves begin to turn bronze and gold, and the mist clears to reveal a blue sky.