Near the hamlet of Blackborough in Devon’s Blackdown Hills, remnants of the local Whetstone mining industry can be found in the woodland. A battered pile of stones could be assumed to be another relic, but the more curious visitor will be intrigued to discover that it is marked on old maps as ‘Garnsey’s Tower’.
Tucked in woodland off Sydenham Hill in south London sits a sham ruin. Although it is now hard to imagine, it was once a feature of the ‘beautiful grounds’ of Fairwood, an elegant newly-built villa. This area of London was very much in vogue in the middle of the 19th century, after the arrival of the relocated Crystal Palace put it on the map, and Sydenham Hill became home to a number of distinguished family homes.
In a patch of scrubby woodland in a Bristol suburb stands this magnificent ecclesiastical eye-catcher. The centrepiece of the structure is the former west window of the Lord Mayor’s Chapel on College Green in Bristol, which was re-erected here when the chapel was restored in the 1820s.
Early in 1860 the Mayor of Hull, Zachariah Pearson, gave 27 acres of land to the Hull Corporation, on condition that they made an immediate start on laying it out as a public park. Initially known as the People’s Park, it was soon renamed Pearson Park in honour of the Mayor’s munificence. It was formally opened in September 1860, and quickly became a popular destination with all the usual attractions of lake, aviary, refreshment rooms and drinking fountain. But a couple of years after opening a less common feature joined the growing list of attractions in the park: a folly in the form of a sham ruin with a rather fascinating provenance.
High above the town of Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale stand two strange stone pillars which look like the remnants of some ancient ecclesiastical edifice. Until 1893 there was a third, and they were known as the Three Stoops, or alternatively as Yorke’s Folly after their begetter, John Yorke. They are often dated to around 1800, but they are actually some decades earlier, being constructed at the height of the Georgian vogue for mock ruins and eye-catchers.
Squire White of Tattingstone Place in Suffolk wanted an eye-catcher to enrich the view from his mansion. Rather than start from scratch, he simply enlarged and embellished a couple of existing cottages, adding a tower and some gothic windows. He called his folly The Tattingstone Wonder, and the story goes that he declared that the local people were wont to wonder at nothing, so he would give them something to wonder at.