architecture, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, Grotto, hampshire, landscape, public park, Summerhouse

The Shell-House, Leigh Park, Havant, Hampshire

Sir George Staunton bought the Leigh Park estate in 1820, and set to work remodelling the house and ornamenting the park with an eclectic range of garden buildings. Many are sadly lost today, but a programme of restoration, in what is now Staunton Country Park, is bringing some of the survivors back to life. One of the loveliest of the garden ornaments is this exquisite little Shell-House.

architecture, belvedere, Folly, garden history, Grotto, hermitage, landscape, Perth & Kinross

The Hermitage, Falls of Acharn, Perth & Kinross

In the 18th century the Campbell family, Earls of Breadalbane, embellished the park around the family seat at Taymouth with temples and mock forts, complementing the natural beauties of the surrounding hills and the River Tay that flows through the estate. Just a couple of miles away, on the shores of Loch Tay, was a more dramatic feature, a rustic shelter and a roaring cascade, which added a sublime element to the beautiful policies of Taymouth.

architecture, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, Grotto, landscape, Surrey

The Grotto and Cottage Orné, Oatlands Park, Surrey, as seen by the novelist Denton Welch

Denton Welch was a talented artist and writer, but his career was sadly cut short by his early death in 1948. A few years before he died he described an ornate 18th century grotto in one of his novels: the fabulous grotto was for real, but it was demolished in the same year that Welch died, making his description all the more poignant.

architecture, Folly, garden, Grotto, Pagoda, pyramid, Summerhouse, Temple

The Last of Uptake: a book of folly and follies

In the early 1940s the artist Rex Whistler completed the illustrations for a book in his breaks from training with the Welsh Guards, working on the drawings in the army huts where he was stationed. The book was The Last of Uptake by Simon Harcourt-Smith, and the reviews agreed that here was ‘the perfect blend of artist and writer’.

architecture, Folly, garden, garden history, Grotto, landscape, London

The Schweppes Grotto, Festival of Britain Pleasure Gardens, Battersea, London

In 1947, the British Government decided to mark the 100th anniversary of the Great Exhibition of 1851 with a Festival of Britain, scheduled to open 100 years to the day since the launch of the Great Exhibition, on 3 May 1951. The focus was an exhibition in London, and the area we now know as South Bank was chosen as the venue for the celebration of British achievements past, present and future. A little upriver at Battersea were the complementary Festival Pleasure Gardens. Whilst the tone on the South Bank was ‘intellectual seriousness’, at Battersea all was colour and whimsy, and a highlight was the sparkling grotto, sponsored by Schhh, you know who…

architecture, East Lothian, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Grotto, landscape, Mausoleum, Rustic shelter, Summerhouse

The Curling House, Gosford House, Aberlady, East Lothian

Gosford House, a seat of the Earl of Wemyss and March, is a stunning mansion which looks across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh. Designed by the eminent architect Robert Adam (1728-1792) shortly before his death, building work began in the 1790s. The house sits in the prettiest of grounds, with watercourses, ponds, summerhouses and a sublime mausoleum. In the following century one of the summerhouses was given a new use by the Aberlady Curling Club, which held matches there whenever the pond was suitably frozen.

architecture, belvedere, Folly, garden, Grotto, landscape, North Yorkshire, Summerhouse

The Grotto, Ingleborough Hall, Clapham, North Yorkshire

Constructed early in the 19th century, this rocky grotto was built in the grounds of Ingleborough Hall, home to the Farrer family. Later it was a favoured spot of Elizabeth Farrer (1853-1937), and has thus became known by the wonderfully comforting name of Aunt Bessie’s Grotto. Here tea was served by the staff, whilst the family enjoyed the wonderful view to Thwaite Scars.

architecture, belvedere, Folly, garden, Grotto, landscape, Rustic shelter, Summerhouse, Temple, Tower

Kyre Park, near Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire

The grounds of Kyre Park were laid out in the second half of the 18th century for the Pytts family. A roughly horseshoe string of ponds was created, with ornamental cascades and bridges, and this landscape formed the backdrop to pageants and garden parties in the Edwardian era. In 1930 the estate was sold, and a series of institutional tenants then occupied the house. In the 1980s the depressing phrases ‘semi-ruinous’ and ‘partially collapsed’ were used to describe a Hermit’s Cave and a tunnel. But by the end of the century Kyre Park had found its saviours…

Folly, garden, Grotto, landscape, Northumberland, Tower

Hartburn Tower and Grotto, Hartburn Glebe, Northumberland

John Sharp became the incumbent of Hartburn, near Morpeth, in 1749 and this curious tower was built soon after; it was originally used as a schoolhouse and to house the parish hearse. Sharp contributed to the cost from his own pocket, but reaped the benefits as the tower also served as an eye-catcher from his ornamented grounds in the valley of the Hart Burn that gives the village its name.