architecture, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, landscape, Northumberland, Observatory, Summerhouse

Ratcheugh Observatory, Longhoughton, Northumberland

A prominent feature in the extensive demesne of Alnwick Castle is the Observatory on Ratcheugh Crag, a ‘stupendous and romantic rock’. The building was one of a number of landscape features planned by Hugh and Elizabeth, 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, in the 1770s, but the sham-ruined eye-catcher was not completed until after her death.

architecture, belvedere, County Durham, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, Summerhouse

The Deer House, Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland, County Durham

In 1752 Richard Trevor became the new Bishop of Durham. A perk of the post was two palaces: one in the city and a country seat at Auckland Castle, on the edge of the town of Bishop Auckland. In around 1760 he erected there this gorgeous gothic Deer House in the park at Auckland. As is so often the case with garden buildings, it combined the functional with the frivolous –  as well as sheltering the herd it also provided a banqueting room with extensive views and served as an eye-catcher in the park.

architecture, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, Northumberland, sham castle, Summerhouse

Starlight Castle, Seaton Delaval, Northumberland

Starlight Castle is a folly on the grand Seaton Delaval estate close to the Northumberland coast. Today only a small section of wall survives, and historic photographs and postcards show it already in ruins a century ago. It was probably built by Sir Francis Delaval (1727-1771) in the middle of the 18th century. The story goes that Delaval wagered he could build a castle overnight, and this was the result.

architecture, Cumbria, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Lancashire, landscape, Summerhouse, Temple

The Temple, Holme Island, Cumbria

Image courtesy of Cumbria Archive Service WDSO/288/2/7.

Holme Island is a small island in Morecambe Bay. It sits close to the coast, not far from Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria (formerly Lancashire). The island was connected to the mainland by a causeway in the 19th century, by which date it was home to a rather special small estate.

architecture, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, garden history, staffordshire, Summerhouse, Tower

Thistleberry Castle, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

Undated photograph courtesy of Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council

Thistleberry House (aka Thistlebury) was the home of Samuel (1767-1838) and Margaret Mayer (?-1859). Samuel Mayer was a tanner and currier, and town dignitary, who was elected Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1833. He is said to have erected this pretty tower in his grounds in the first decades of the 19th century.

architecture, belvedere, eyecatcher, Folly, garden, landscape, Somerset, Summerhouse, Tower

The Summerhouse, Newton Surmaville, Somerset

Newton Surmaville, just outside Yeovil, was bought by the Harbin family in the early 1600s, and they immediately set about constructing a very handsome new house. Sometime in the middle of the following century they added this summerhouse on Newton Hill, high above the house, and the story locally is that it was one of a trio of towers in the area, used by their owners to flag the message that it was time to ‘gallop over for a convivial evening’. 

architecture, East Lothian, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Grotto, landscape, Mausoleum, Rustic shelter, Summerhouse

The Curling House, Gosford House, Aberlady, East Lothian

Gosford House, a seat of the Earl of Wemyss and March, is a stunning mansion which looks across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh. Designed by the eminent architect Robert Adam (1728-1792) shortly before his death, building work began in the 1790s. The house sits in the prettiest of grounds, with watercourses, ponds, summerhouses and a sublime mausoleum. In the following century one of the summerhouses was given a new use by the Aberlady Curling Club, which held matches there whenever the pond was suitably frozen.