architecture, country house, Essex, eyecatcher, Folly, Mausoleum, Tower

Cranbrook Castle, or Raymond’s Folly, Ilford, Essex

Card posted in 1910. Courtesy of a private collection.

In 1765 Charles Raymond built a tower on his estate at Valentines in Ilford, Essex. Money was not an issue, for Raymond had grown wealthy in business, and in particular shipping, having started his career in the employ of the East India Company. The prominently-placed sham fortification was an eye-catcher that announced his status to all who passed by. It was intended as his family mausoleum, but things didn’t quite go to plan.

architecture, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Mausoleum, sham castle, Tower, Well

Follies and Freaks: a 1908 view.

In 1908 T.W. Wilkinson submitted an article on ‘Remarkable Follies’ to Wide World Magazine. This popular publication was launched in 1898 and was aimed at men, and in particular what one writer has called ‘armchair adventurers’. It specialised in true-life tales of derring-do with titles such as ‘The Underground Pirates’ and ‘Across Africa by Boat’. One wonders what the readership made of Wilkinson’s article: exciting as follies are, they don’t quite have the drama of ‘A Subterranean Duel’.

architecture, Bell tower, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Kent, landscape, Mausoleum, Observatory, Tower

Waterloo Tower, Quex Park, Birchington, Kent

John Powell Powell (1769-1849 – the double Powell acquired to meet the conditions of an inheritance) was passionate about bell-ringing and erected this ‘light, elegant and fanciful building’ at Quex Park, his seat in Kent, where his hobby could be indulged. Not content with a lofty tower, he almost doubled its height with a unique cast iron spire – years before a certain Parisian landmark took shape.

architecture, belvedere, country house, Essex, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Lancashire, Mausoleum, Monmouthshire, sham castle, Summerhouse

Monuments to Lost Loves

With St Valentine’s Day approaching, the Folly Flâneuse wondered which were the most romantic garden buildings. The most famous expression of love in an architectural form is surely the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favourite wife. But closer to home are three equally enchanting buildings built as monuments to lost loves – two real, and one imaginary, and each likened to the marble mausoleum in India. 

architecture, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, hampshire, landscape, Mausoleum, Monument, pyramid

The Horse Monument, Farley Mount, Hursley, Hampshire

Photo courtesy of John Malaiperuman

High in Hampshire stands this imposing monument. It marks the resting place of a heroic horse, which managed not only to survive a leap into a deep pit, rider intact, but went on to win a great race the following year. That rider was Paulet St John (1704-1780) of Farley Chamberlayne. Alongside his sporting exploits, he found time to be a Member of Parliament and Mayor of Winchester, and was rewarded in 1772 when he became Sir Paulet St John, baronet.

But to go back forty years to 1733: when out ‘a foxhunting’ St John misjudged the terrain and found himself leaping into a chalk pit which was 25 feet deep. Somehow, neither man nor mount was injured, and the horse went on to win the Hunters’ Plate at Winchester the following year. The tale, as told on the monument, is that St John celebrated his lucky escape by entering the horse in the race under the name of ‘Beware Chalk Pit’, although a diligent writer in the Sporting Magazine of 1840 searched back in the records and concluded that the horse was actually better known as a chestnut called (unimaginatively) Foxhunter.

The monument as seen in Vol. I of ‘A General History of Hampshire…’ by Woodward, Wilks and Lockhart, published in 1861

Exact dates for the death of the horse, and the erection of what became known locally as ‘the ‘Horse Monument’, seem to be lost. The mound on which it stands is thought to be Bronze Age, but with modern interventions, and it was once the site of a beacon. Most sources suggest the monument was built in 1795, but as this was 15 years after St John died it must be earlier, and almost certainly before 1772, as the inscription does not record St John’s baronetcy. On Taylor’s 1759 map of Hampshire the site is marked as ‘Beacon Hill’, but no building is indicated (although frustratingly this doesn’t mean it wasn’t there). However by 1791 when Milne’s map of the county was made, ‘Beacon Hill’ is shown complete with a building on the summit. By the time the 1st series Ordnance Survey map was published in the 1810s the building had become known as the ‘Farley Monument’.

In 1863 the monument was described as ‘somewhat dilapidated’ and it was covered with graffiti as a result of ‘vulgar Vandalism’ (presumably it had stood strong against the weather, because of course in Hampshire hurricanes hardly ever happen…). It was restored by the Rt Hon Sir William Heathcote, Bt, of Hursley in 1870, and it seems that it was actually more of a rebuild than a repair. In 1846 it was described as a ‘miniature pyramid’ and an engraving published in 1861 (above) shows a cube with a pyramid roof, much simpler and squatter in form than the current structure. A most unexpected source, of which more later, described it in 1848 as ’20 feet high’, whereas the present pyramid reaches over 32 feet (10m).

Farley Mount by William Savage (1817-1887). This wonderful photograph was taken in 1870, the year the monument was rebuilt. Sadly we don’t know the identity of  the elegant top-hatted gentleman by the folly.  Image courtesy of Hampshire Cultural Trust, WINCM;PWCM4674.

Post-restoration, the cube base had disappeared and an elegant elongated pyramid had appeared in its place. There are porches on each face: one contains an entrance and the other three are blank. Inside a room was constructed so ‘way-farers and picnic parties may rest and be thankful’. Heathcote replaced the original inscription with two plaques (one inside, one on the exterior), adding for posterity his own role in the building:

SEP.  A. D. 1870

Early 20th century postcard, courtesy of a private collection.

The monument was nicely summarised by John Rayner in the 1937 Shell Guide to Hampshire as a ‘strange manifestation of the English spirit, combining hippo mania and the almost invariably successful grandeur of follies’.

The monument needs regular maintenance. It was restored in 1950, and again at the beginning of the current century, when the question of whether it was actually an equine mausoleum (which it had been called since at least 1798), was raised. A basic investigation found no trace of the horse, but it did confirm that the building had been constructed in ‘two phases’. This restoration involved stripping off the old render and removing and replacing the decayed outer skin of brickwork. Once rebuilt the pyramid was re-rendered with lime mortar and painted. In 2014 further renovation and repainting was required to keep the monument looking its best. Since the early 1970s the surrounding land has been a country park with the grade II listed monument dominating the landscape.

Photo courtesy of John Malaiperuman.

But to return to the unlikely source of the measurement of the tower: in 1848 a Geometry and Mechanics examination paper for the Winchester Diocesan Training School, asked the following question: ‘The “Horse Monument” on Farley Mount is a pyramid of brick-work 20 feet high, built upon a mound 30 feet high; supposing the materials to weigh 8 tons, how many units of work were expended in raising them from the foot of the mound to their present position?’

If that’s too taxing, have a listen to a brief 1937 clip about the folly on Pathé News. Having sneaked Professor Henry Higgins into the text earlier, he would surely have approved of the clipped pronunciation of “Hempshire”

Photo courtesy of John Malaiperuman

The fabulous colour photos used here are all courtesy of John Malaiperuman, the conservation architect who led the 2014 restoration. You can see more of his work here

For Farley Mount Country Park


architecture, Belgium, Bristol, Cornwall, Folly, garden, garden history, landscape, Mausoleum, North Yorkshire, public park

A Sham Sepulchre in Rome, & three more at home (& a detour to Brussels)

The fact that a building in the Albano hills above Rome has been known since the 18th century as the ‘so called’ mausoleum of the Horatii and Curiatii speaks volumes: it was in fact constructed on the Appian Way centuries after the legendary rival Horatii and Curiatii triplets are said to have battled for their pride and people. But the legend and the sham sepulchre must have made an impression: back home in England it inspired at least three monuments in landscape gardens.

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, Folly, garden history, Mausoleum, North Yorkshire

Hail, Castle Howard!

Hail, Castle Howard! Hail, Vanbrugh’s noble dome
Where Yorkshire in her splendour rivals Rome!

Thus wrote John Betjeman in a poem composed for Bird’s-Eye View: The Englishman’s Home, a documentary scripted and mellifluously-narrated by Betjeman, which was first shown on BBC2 in April 1969. Many great houses are featured in the film, but a highlight for the Folly Flâneuse is Castle Howard, in North Yorkshire.

architecture, belvedere, Buckinghamshire, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, landscape, Mausoleum, Pagoda, Suffolk, Temple, Tower

Recording Britain

The Dashwood Mausoleum, West Wycombe. Image ©fotoLibra/Scott A. McNealy.

This weekend the country celebrates the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Thinking of the events of 1939-45, the Folly Flâneuse was reminded of a wartime project to document the changing rural and urban face of Britain. At a time when the future seemed uncertain,  ‘Recording Britain’ commissioned artists to portray the country as it then was, creating a visual history for future generations.