On the edge of the town of Wigan stands Haigh Hall, described in 1745 as a ‘good old house and wood in a very pretty situation’. On rising ground above Haigh Hall (pronounced Hay) there once stood a substantial landscape feature which housed an observatory. A pair of paintings with an interesting history help tell the tale.
When the great folly builders of the 17th and 18th centuries were erecting statement buildings on the high points of their estates, they can little have known how useful they would be to the Board of Ordnance. The ‘Principal Triangulation of Britain’ was a trigonometric survey, begun in the late 18th century, which by determining precise coordinates of significant landmarks would enable highly accurate mapping. The main landmarks used were church spires, but ‘other remarkable objects’ were picked, and in the first decade of the 19th century over 50 towers, temples, obelisks, summer houses and follies made it into this category.
Built in the later 18th century, The Kennels were designed in the style of a sham castle, with a central room flanked by two squat towers. The building also served as an eye-catcher from the bridge over the River Ribble, although this latter function has been lost as trees now block the view. Sadly the castellations are also long gone, but the building appears to have a happier future ahead.
In the first half of the 19th century villages and hamlets on the Lancashire coast, overlooking Morecambe Bay, grew rapidly as holiday destinations. The prosperous middle class of Manchester, and the surrounding manufacturing towns, was keen to escape the noise and dirt of urban life and took houses on the coast where the air was clear. Henry Paul Fleetwood, a prosperous Preston banker, saw the potential of Silverdale, north of Carnforth, and erected this tower on his estate there as a belvedere and summerhouse.
This gothic fragment can be found in the public park surrounding Clitheroe Castle in Lancashire. It was given to the town by Captain Sir William Brass, the local MP, to mark the coronation of King George VI in 1937. The pinnacle was rescued from the masons’ yard after it was removed as part of the extensive repairs to the stonework of the Houses of Parliament begun in the 1930s. The ladies bowling team selflessly allowed their green to be converted into a rose garden to surround the pinnacle.