On the rocky outcrop known as Balcarres Craig (or Crag) stands an elegant eye-catcher in the form of a circular tower with ruined curtain walls attached. It was built in 1813 for Robert Lindsay of Balcarres House as a ‘grand object in the landscape’.
Early in the 19th century Benjamin Farrer built a tower close to his home in Fagley, then a village on the edge of Bradford. The elegant edifice declined after its builder’s death and survived for less than a century. But that was time enough to accumulate the usual fanciful folly stories.
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.
In 1839 Charles Booker leased a plot of land in the corner of Guildford’s ‘Great Hilly Field’. There’s a clue to his purpose in the name of the site: Booker needed an elevated spot on which to build a ‘prospect tower’. After his death the adjacent land became the town’s cemetery, and the tower passed to the Burial Board (who were reluctant custodians). It later came into the control of the town council, and a contract was signed in 1927 to allow its demolition. But by a quirk of fate the tower survived, and stands tall today.
Cothelstone was an ancient seat of the Stawel family. In the second half of the 18th century it was the property of Mary Stawel (1726-1780), the sole surviving direct descendant. In recognition of her ancient lineage, George III made her a baroness in her own right in 1760, with the title to pass to her sons from her first marriage to Henry Bilson Legge, Earl of Dartmouth. After the death of her first husband in 1764, Mary married Wills Hill, the Earl of Hillsborough (he would be created Marquess of Downshire after her death).
Although initially mocked in some quarters as Prince Albert’s ‘folly’, the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park was a triumph. But the agreement had always been that the great glass gallery, which had become known as the ‘Crystal Palace’, would be removed after the fair was over, and the parkland setting then restored. But as the Earl of Carlisle wrote when that time approached, ‘the destruction of the Crystal Palace would be as perverse and senseless an act of vandalism as could be perpetuated’. Moving the building to an ‘open and accessible spot’ outside the city seemed the most sensible solution, but one man had other ideas…
In the 1720s Sir Robert and Lady Furnese erected a vast garden building at Waldershare Park, their seat in Kent, which became known as the Belvedere. 300 years later a diminutive structure, the Monumenta Romana, has appeared in its shadow
Deep in woodland on Holly Hill, near the village of Hernhill in Kent, stands a bedraggled belvedere. It was built by Edwyn Sandys Dawes sometime in the late 19th century, as a prospect tower with a ‘view unsurpassed in the county’.
In 1896 a new publication was launched in Britain. Pearson’s Magazine was a miscellany of fact and fiction, and is best known today for a landmark event of 1922: the appearance of the first ever crossword puzzle in a British publication. Only a year after it first appeared on newsstands the magazine was attracting writers of the highest calibre, including H.G.Wells whose The War of the Worlds was serialised in 1897. But of course what caught the eye of the Folly Flâneuse was an article from 1898 when Edward le Martin-Breton, wrote an illustrated article on ‘Famous Follies’.
In January 1897, with the Diamond Jubilee of the reign of Queen Victoria approaching, the Darwen News featured a letter from a correspondent named only as ‘Landmark’, proposing that a tower be built on Darwen Moor to mark the occasion. There was a favourable response and the great and good of the town began to make plans.