architecture, Banqueting House, belvedere, Column, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, Observatory, sham castle, Tower

‘Famous Follies’: a Nineteenth Century View

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’.

architecture, belvedere, Dorset, eyecatcher, Folly, landscape, Observatory, Tower

Steeple Folly, The Black Tower, & Clavell Tower, Dorset: fiction and fact.

Photo' courtesy of W. Sweeney/Landmark Trust.

In the middle of the 20th century books featuring the adventures of the Lockett children captured the imaginations of young readers. One title in particular appealed to the Folly Flâneuse: what ghastly goings-on could have taken place at the ‘half completed and abandoned tower’ known as Steeple Folly? And which real clifftop folly might have been the inspiration for it?

architecture, belvedere, country house, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, Observatory, sham castle, Somerset

Knowle Tower, Knowle Hall, Bawdrip, Somerset

The little village of Bawdrip in Somerset was once home to a rugged and romantic ruin. Standing on Knowle Hill, it was built by Benjamin Cuff Greenhill of Knowle Hall as an eye-catcher and observatory, and to add a ‘Gallic touch to the Somerset countryside’. Sadly it is long gone, but it is remembered in local legends and picture postcards.

architecture, belvedere, Column, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Observatory, Somerset, Tower

Turner’s Tower, Faulkland, Somerset

Somerset has more than its fair share of folly towers, but one of the most audacious examples is sadly long gone. This was the slender tower built by John Turner in the hamlet of Faulkland, near Bath, in 1890. It stood for less than 80 years, having become progressively shorter before its eventual demise in the 1960s.

architecture, belvedere, country house, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, Lodge, Norfolk, Observatory, Tower, Triumphal Arch

Westwick Arch and Obelisk, Westwick, Norfolk

This fine arch could once be found on the edge of the village of Westwick, but sadly it was pulled down as recently as 1981. Nearby, in a scrappy ribbon of woodland, stands a decrepit brick tower with a square base supporting a round shaft. It is difficult to appreciate that this remnant was once a much-admired eye-catcher and belvedere, which went by the curious title of the Westwick Obelisk.

architecture, Banqueting House, belvedere, Carmarthenshire, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, Monument, Observatory, Tower

The Nelson Tower, aka Paxton’s Tower, Llanarthney, Carmarthenshire

High above the valley of the River Towy stands a sturdy, and seemingly invincible, tower. It was built to commemorate Admiral Lord Nelson, but within a century it was falling into decay, and it only narrowly escaped conversion into a cowshed.

architecture, belvedere, Cumbria, eyecatcher, Folly, museum, Observatory, Tower

Braystones Tower, or Watson’s Folly, Braystones, Cumbria

In the late 19th century Braystones was a peaceful hamlet close to the Cumberland coast with views out across the Irish Sea. It was here that William Henry Watson built a tower to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897. Half a century later, the view would change dramatically: were one able to climb the tower today the eye would be first caught by the great mass that is the Sellafield Nuclear Plant.

architecture, belvedere, Column, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, landscape, Monument, Northumberland, Observatory, Tower

The Peace Column, Swansfield House, Alnwick, Northumberland

On the edge of Alnwick, in Northumberland, stood Swansfield House, an elegant villa that in the late 18th century was home to Henry Collingwood Selby (1748-1839), agent to the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland of Alnwick Castle. Following the lead of his monument-building patrons, he embellished his small estate with a tower, a column, and a curious gothic structure.