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.