In the first half of the 19th century the Airmyn estate, on a bend in the river Aire, was owned by George Percy, the 2nd earl of Beverley (1778-1867), a grandson of the 1st duke of Northumberland. He was admired as a benevolent landlord who took care of his tenants, and in 1834 he endowed the village with a Sunday School. In the mid 1860s the tenants ‘unanimously decided to erect a testimonial’ in honour of his ‘kindness and liberality’. This tribute took the form of a charming clocktower, far from folly, but an ornament to this tranquil and very pretty riverside village.
Parlington Park is close to Aberford, south of Wetherby, on the old Great North Road. An architectural highlight of the landscape park is this Triumphal Arch, constructed in the early 1780s to definitively declare Sir Thomas Gascoigne’s stance on the ongoing war with America. Its inscription begins LIBERTY IN N AMERICA TRIUMPHANT, an unequivocal statement that Sir Thomas was firmly on the side of the colonists. The Folly Flâneuse has written about the arch before, but is revisiting to mark the Fourth of July, Independence Day in the U.S.A., and to look at a very curious moment in the modern history of the monument.
Brizlee Tower* stands high on Brizlee Hill, near Alnwick, and overlooks Hulne Park, a detached pleasure ground close to the Duke of Northumberland’s principal park at Alnwick Castle. It was built in the late 18th century as a prospect tower and eye-catcher, and also as an object to be visited on a drive from the castle through Hulne Park. The park was designed by ‘the inimitable Brown’, aka Capability, working with local engineers and designers, and was also home to the ruins of mediaeval Hulne Abbey, embellished and repurposed by the Duke and Duchess as a banqueting house, pleasure garden and menagerie for exotic pheasants. This is one of The Folly Flâneuse’s favourite follies: the detail is just so joyful, or as historian Alistair Rowan so wonderfully put it: ‘at Brizlee there is fantasy and flamboyance’.
The Folly Flâneuse is playing safe here with the locations of these two structures, as the inhabitants of the villages of Cowling and Sutton in Craven, south of Skipton, each claim a monument as their own. Locals are at least agreed on a nickname: for very obvious reasons the tower and pinnacle are known as the Salt and Pepper Pots.
The weather has not been conducive to folly-spotting, so The Folly Flâneuse is looking back to a trip to the Mediterranean island of Malta, where this imposing monument to Sir Alexander John Ball can be found. Situated in the Lower Barraka Gardens, it was erected by public subscription to commemorate Ball’s role in governing a peaceful Malta in the first years of the 19th century.
In the middle of the 18th century the area around Dunston was unenclosed heath, and travel was a dirty and dangerous business, especially in the dark winter months. Sir Francis Dashwood (1708-1781), 2nd baronet, of West Wycombe and Hell-fire Club fame, came into property in the area when he married Sarah Ellys of nearby Nocton in 1745. Dashwood erected the Dunston Pillar in 1751 as a beacon to guide ‘the peasant, the wayfaring stranger, and the horseman with his dame on pillion’.
The grandly-named ‘Temple of Naval Heroes’ stands at the end of a narrow causeway that leads from the grounds of Storrs Hall out into the water, offering magnificent views up and down the lake. The temple was constructed by Sir John Legard of Storrs Hall as an ornament to the new house he had built in the last years of the eighteenth century, and as an expression of his patriotism, Sir John being ‘passionately attached to his country’. The octagonal building carries plaques celebrating four great naval victors in the ongoing war against the French– Admirals Howe, St Vincent, Duncan and Nelson.
Sir John Clerk’s great mansion at Penicuik was devastated by fire in 1889, and remained derelict and dangerous for over a century. It was consolidated by the Penicuik House Preservation Trust in 2007-2014, and is now a thriving visitor attraction and education centre. The Trust will soon turn its attention to another of its stated conservation aims: ‘preserving and restoring the historic built structures within the Designed Landscape’. Excellent news!
The hero of this tale began life in 1787 as Thomas Monteath. By the time he died in 1868 he had taken the name Douglas as a condition of an inheritance, advanced in the military ranks, and been knighted, thus ending his life as General Sir Thomas Monteath Douglas. He had plans to ensure that he would not quickly be forgotten, and had this extraordinary mausoleum constructed.
Writing in Tatler magazine in 1961 the writer, and champion of the British countryside, Ronald Blythe, questioned why follies were common in the countryside, but seldom found in the city. Long before the ‘concrete and glass’ that constituted the cities in Blythe’s mind, costly and extravagant ornamental structures could be found on the streets of the capital. These were the triumphal arches built to celebrate the coronation of a new monarch.