Overlooking the picturesque harbour of Portree, on the Isle of Skye, stands a little tower. It was built in the 1830s by Dr Alexander Macleod, a much-admired man who was known locally as An Dotair Ban, the fair-haired doctor. As well as practicing medicine, Macleod (1788-1854) was also employed as a factor to look after local estates and was respected as an engineer and land-improver.
High above the valley of the River Tilt, within the policies of Blair Castle, sits this beautifully designed and situated eye-catcher. A walk through woodland brings one to the folly and, turning, a wonderful panorama is revealed.
On a knoll in the former park of Conishead Priory, near Ulverston in Cumbria, (formerly Lancashire) stands this solitary tower. It was once part of a much larger folly, known as the Old Castle, which many took for a genuine ancient monument. Thomas Braddyll (1730-1776) erected it as an ornament to be seen from his seat at Conishead Priory.
On high ground in Weston Park, ancestral seat of the earls of Bradford, stands this prospect tower. Although Weston Park is in Staffordshire, the knoll on which the tower stands is just over the border into Shropshire, and it was formerly home to another monument, allegedly built for the most repulsive of reasons.
The hamlet of Racton, in a quiet corner of West Sussex, is little more than a church and a cluster of cottages. What catches the eye is the dramatic ruin, with tapering central tower, that stands above the settlement. This is the belvedere erected by George Montagu Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, as an ornament to his Stansted Park estate.
In 1896 a new publication was launched in Britain. Pearson’s Magazine was a miscellany of fact and fiction, and is best known today for a landmark event of 1922: the appearance of the first ever crossword puzzle in a British publication. Only a year after it first appeared on newsstands the magazine was attracting writers of the highest calibre, including H.G.Wells whose The War of the Worlds was serialised in 1897. But of course what caught the eye of the Folly Flâneuse was an article from 1898 when Edward le Martin-Breton, wrote an illustrated article on ‘Famous Follies’.
High on the Sussex Downs, near the village of South Harting, stand some curious ruins. The jagged and dilapidated stonework is all that remains of the wonderful ornate tower built by Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh of Uppark (or Up-park) in the 1770s and later known by the curious title of the Vandalian Tower.
Close to the little village of Dinton, near Aylesbury, stands an imposing 18th century folly called Dinton Castle. 250 years after it was first built it shot to fame on the TV show Grand Designs. But to mark the 200th post on these pages, the Folly Flâneuse intends to enjoy a Dinton Folly of a very different kind.
John Piper’s paintings of follies and garden buildings are well-known, but less familiar are his ceramics decorated with architectural features, including a series of ‘curly dishes’ with his wonderful whimsical interpretations of 18th century designs for rustic follies.
Newstead Abbey is best known as the seat of the Romantic poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, but it was equally famed in the middle of the 18th century as the home of his great-uncle, William, the 5th Baron, known as the ‘Wicked Lord’. It was William who built sham forts and castles around the estate’s Great Lake, on which sailed his fleet of boats.