Thomas Lister (1752-1826) of Gisburn, Lancashire, inherited the Malham shooting lodge from his father in 1761. The centrepiece of its surrounding estate was Malham Tarn, a natural lake said to be the largest in Yorkshire. The water had been criticised by travellers in search of the picturesque: ‘The Tarn has nothing beautiful in its shape or borders, being bare of trees, and everything else to ornament it’, wrote William Bray in a work published in 1783. Although surrounded by crags the rocks were deemed too distant from the waters edge, and the tarn tame, especially in comparison with the sublime limestone masses of Malham Cove and Gordale scar, just a short ride away, which tourists saw on the same day.
Clarkson’s History of Richmond, revised in 1821, recounts that Cuthbert Readshaw created a ‘highly romantic walk’ by the Swale in 1760. Cuthbert Readshaw, who died in 1773 was a merchant who lived in the Bailey (ie the market place) in Richmond, and according to his will he was in ‘the business of wine and spirits and other branches of trade’.
To access the walk 18th century visitors would have travelled downhill from the town centre and crossed the river via the Green Bridge. Promenading along the south bank of the River Swale they would have encountered the picturesque scene of leafy Billy Bank Wood (aka Bordel Bank) and occasional artful outbreaks of the craggy rock face behind. Tucked in the woods was the cleft or cave known as Arthur’s Oven, conjuring romantic images of ancient and wilder times.
Coghill Hall has changed hands, appearances, and names over the centuries. Known today as Conyngham Hall, it is situated on the edge of the town of Knaresborough and the house originally enjoyed views to the ancient castle and church, as well as of the wooded banks of the river Nidd. Knaresborough’s historian, Eli Hargrove, described the situation in 1789:
‘The lawn falls gently towards the river, on the bank of which a fine gravel walk winds through a thick grove to a retired and pleasing spot called the hermitage, where a rustic cell built of stones and moss is placed near a natural cascade, which the river forms by falling over a ridge of rocks.’
The Folly Flâneuse can’t take the credit for this wonderful photograph but she can encourage you to get to Studley Royal before 4 November to see Folly!18, a collection of new follies dotted around the estate and complementing the Aislabie family’s 18th century towers, tunnels and grots. This is Polly by architect Charles Holland, a tongue-in-beak tribute to the Georgian mania for housing exotic birds within a landscape garden
Dated 1792 the temple in the park of Swinithwaite Hall was built as a banqueting house and belvedere to enjoy ‘the most strikingly beautiful and picturesque scenery of the valley and the whole range of its western mountains’. The valley in question is that of the river Ure, and the most dramatic feature of the vista was the ‘grand and majestic falls […] over the rocks of Aysgarth’, a view that is still partially intact today. The temple was a short ride away from the hall and set within its own miniature pleasure ground with ‘ornamental timber and shrubberies.’ A panel above the door shows a talbot, a breed of dog associated with hunting, suggesting that the temple may also have been used as a grandstand for watching the chase in the valley below.
The National Trust has applied for Listed Building Consent to place two replica busts in the Temple of Piety at Studley Royal.
Construction of the temple overlooking the Moon Ponds took place in the 1730s, probably under the direction of the stonemason John Doe. The architect is not known although the building is identical to a Palladio drawing of the (long since destroyed) Temple of Piety in Rome. This sketch was once owned by Lord Burlington, a friend of John Aislabie who owned Studley.
Barbara Jones, the first person to write a comprehensive account of follies in Britain, saw this building and was underwhelmed. In the 1953 first edition of Follies & Grottoes she described it as ‘gutted’ and full of pigeon’s nests, and concluded that ‘no amount of bird life can divest this folly of its ordinariness’. If only she had seen it in its prime; a sketch by the itinerant artist and drawing master J.C. Nattes dated 1807 shows an enchanting little building.