Folly, Grottoes and Hermitages, West Yorkshire

Happy 65th anniversary ‘Follies and Grottoes’

A great stumbling block in the understanding of follies is the attempt to define what exactly one is. Must it be useless? Wildly expensive? Weird? One of my favourite summaries comes from Barbara Jones, the first person to study the genre in depth in Follies and Grottoes, published by Constable 65 years ago today 

She wrote that a folly ‘is built for pleasure, and pleasure is personal, difficult to define.’

Grottoes and Hermitages, Shropshire, Temples

Badger Dingle, Shropshire

The Temple, now in the care of The Landmark Trust

Badger Dingle, north east of Bridgnorth in Shropshire, was created by Isaac Hawkins Browne in the 1780s and ‘90s. He constructed a new mansion, Badger Hall (demolished 1950s), to the designs of James Wyatt whilst at the same time employing William Emes, and probably his associate John Webb, to create a pleasure ground. Lakes were created in the valley bottom and a circuit walk took visitors through the ‘ornamented cultivated side’ of the valley, which looked across to the ‘purely sylvan’ scene of the opposite bank. An early account describes a picturesque scene of  alpine planting and colourful shrubs.

Derbyshire, Grottoes and Hermitages, Temples, Towers

Art Out Loud, Chatsworth, Derbyshire

The Grotto, Chatsworth

The Folly Flâneuse has just enjoyed a weekend at Art Out Loud, the annual festival of talks by artists, curators, collectors and writers at Chatsworth. In between talks there was plenty of time to revisit the wonderful gardens and Capability Brown landscape, as well as the magnificent mansion, which is looking incredibly fine after a decade of restoration. Highlights included artist Ed Kluz talking with Kate Hubbard, whose new account of Bess of Hardwick’s building mania is just out. Bess, who lived at Chatsworth in the second half of the 16th century, was probably the driving force behind the construction of the Hunting Tower, or Stand, which dominates the hillside above the house and gardens.

Grottoes and Hermitages, South Yorkshire

Hermit’s Cave, South Yorkshire

A recent revelation on a private estate in South Yorkshire. Whilst wandering the grounds with the owner she mentioned it only as an aside: “I don’t suppose you are interested in the hermit’s cave?”. Not even the torrential April rain could dampen my spirits, although photos had to wait for more congenial weather. No history has been found to date, and it’s not even on O.S. maps, but appetites have been whetted…

Grottoes and Hermitages, Surrey

The Grotto, Beaverbrook, Surrey

Beaverbrook is a sumptuous country house hotel close to Dorking in Surrey. It was formerly the home of Lord Beaverbrook, the press baron, who found it by accident, and snapped it up, whilst out motoring with Rudyard Kipling in 1911. His house guests at Cherkley Court, as it then was, included luminaries from politics, the arts and show business. Winston Churchill dictated letters from his bath, Jean Cocteau painted a glass panel that remains above a door and Elizabeth Taylor provided Hollywood glamour.