Squire White of Tattingstone Place in Suffolk wanted an eye-catcher to enrich the view from his mansion. Rather than start from scratch, he simply enlarged and embellished a couple of existing cottages, adding a tower and some gothic windows. He called his folly The Tattingstone Wonder, and the story goes that he declared that the local people were wont to wonder at nothing, so he would give them something to wonder at.
“It is a pleasant delusion to think that this is the last fragment of a noble baronial pile” wrote the author of a guide to Roundhay Park in 1872. It was, he explained, simply ‘an object of interest’, the creation of a gentleman of ‘good taste’: in short, a folly.
Bishopthorpe, a few miles outside York, has been home to the Archbishops of York for centuries. In the 1760s Archbishop Drummond added a new facade to the palace, constructed a gatehouse, and rebuilt the village church. His architect of choice was Thomas Atkinson, a respected designer but a curious choice as he was a Roman Catholic*. All three structures were built in a whimsical gothick style, much of the stone coming from the ancient former episcopal palace at Cawood, a few miles south. When first built the three buildings formed an ensemble around a small ornamental lake, sadly long since drained.
Oswell Blakeston (1907-1985), was born Henry Joseph Hasslacher, and created his nom de plume by condensing ‘Osbert Sitwell’, whom he admired, into ‘Oswell’ and adding his mother’s maiden name. He was a British writer and artist with wide interests, and one of his passions was follies; his role in bringing the genre to a wider audience deserves to be better known.
Not folly, but definitely landscape ornament, The Folly Flâneuse was surprised to find two ziggurats on a recent damp, but exhilarating, jaunt to East Anglia. Built more than two centuries apart, both were influenced by the architecture of Mesopotamia where the ziggurat was a temple in the form of a stepped pyramid, each level raising it closer to heaven.
Bramham Park, south of Wetherby and close to the Great North Road as it passes through Yorkshire, was built by Robert Benson, Lord Bingley, and completed in the early years of the 18th century. The estate has remained in the care of his descendants (with a couple of confusing name changes) ever since. In 1828, while the family were away at a funeral, fire broke out in the mansion causing serious damage to the fabric of the building. Happily, the quick actions of the servants and neighbours meant that some of the contents could be saved. Less fortunately, there was no money available to rebuild, so the house remained a ruin throughout the rest of the century.
Miniature models of follies and temples are fairly common, but it is not often that you see one blown up to mansion dimensions. Vestavia, in Alabama, is just that: a Roman temple inflated into a family home with a dining room to seat 42.
James Wyatt produced plans for a ‘Saxon Hexagon Tower’ for the 6th Earl of Coventry in the last years of the 18th century. After his death in 1809 it was sold and over the following centuries it became the home of a printing workshop, a retreat for members of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a farmhouse. In 1974 it became the centrepiece of a country park, and it remains so today.
The group of follies and monuments at Wentworth Woodhouse needs little introduction, being one of the finest collections of landscape ornaments in Britain. So this post is just an opportunity for The Folly Flâneuse to remind you that you can climb the Hoober Stand and admire the Monument on bank holidays and Sundays from Spring Bank holiday until late August. And also to use some photographs taken during the wonderful March heatwave.
The Fox Tower, just outside Brough in the tiny settlement of Helbeck, is one of those follies built to be both eye-catcher and belvedere. It is a prominent landmark from the long-established road between Scotch Corner and Penrith, now the A66. From the tower there are dramatic views across the Pennines and the Eden Valley.