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…
In 1791 Francis Newbery, bought Bailey Park, an estate in East Sussex, which he renamed the Heathfield Park Estate. Almost immediately he set to work constructing this elegant tower on high ground in his park. The Folly Flâneuse has joined forces with The Garden Historian to elaborate on its history.
Starlight Castle is a folly on the grand Seaton Delaval estate close to the Northumberland coast. Today only a small section of wall survives, and historic photographs and postcards show it already in ruins a century ago. It was probably built by Sir Francis Delaval (1727-1771) in the middle of the 18th century. The story goes that Delaval wagered he could build a castle overnight, and this was the result.
Tucked in woods behind Cally House (now the Cally Palace Hotel) is an absolutely enchanting little gothic tower, known as The Temple. It was built in the late 18th century as an eyecatcher from the house, but is now surrounded by trees in a sequestered spot.
High above Belton House, near Grantham in Lincolnshire, stands this quirky tower with views back to the mansion. It consists of a room perched above a tall arch, and its spindly, leg-like supports, gave rise to its supposed local name of Lord Brownlow’s Britches.
Holme Island is a small island in Morecambe Bay. It sits close to the coast, not far from Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria (formerly Lancashire). The island was connected to the mainland by a causeway in the 19th century, by which date it was home to a rather special small estate.
The Ruined Castle in the grounds of Hagley Hall, near Stourbridge in Worcestershire, was built by Sir Thomas Lyttleton (1685-1751) in 1747-48 as a feature to be visited, and seen as a prospect, on a walk around his park. His eldest son, George Lyttelton (1709-1773), was probably a driving influence, and together they created one of the most perfect sham ruins in Britain.
John Wilkinson (1728-1808) made his fortune in the iron industry in the second half of the 18th century. Such was his ardour for developing and innovating in his field, that he became known as ‘Iron-mad Wilkinson’, and that passion even included a plan to spend eternity encased in iron.
As summer turned to autumn The Folly Flâneuse was reminded of a jolly jaunt to Jupiter Artland, a sculpture garden just outside Edinburgh, on a glorious day a year ago. A highlight was Pablo Bronstein’s Rose Walk, a pair of pavilions terminating a 25 metre long rose garden, their white-painted tracery magnificent against a clear blue sky.
Newton Surmaville, just outside Yeovil, was bought by the Harbin family in the early 1600s, and they immediately set about constructing a very handsome new house. Sometime in the middle of the following century they added this summerhouse on Newton Hill, high above the house, and the story locally is that it was one of a trio of towers in the area, used by their owners to flag the message that it was time to ‘gallop over for a convivial evening’.