18th century Italy was bustling with rich young noblemen on the Grand Tour. This extended study trip/holiday filled the years between formal education ending and the responsibilities of inheriting an estate, and producing heirs of their own, kicked in. In the early years of the 1750s, a coterie in Rome centred on Charles Caulfeild, Viscount Charlemont, a young Irish dilettante as well read as he was well travelled: Charlemont would travel further than most and see Egypt, Constantinople and Greece. Within his circle for the obligatory sojourn in Italy were two men with strong Yorkshire connections: Thomas Brudenell, Baron Bruce of Tottenham, who had a seat at Tanfield Hall near Ripon, and Henry Willoughby of Birdsall Hall in the East Riding of the county.
On the banks of the river Wear in the city of Durham is a little classical summerhouse known as The Count’s House. It takes its name from Joseph Boruwlaski (1739-1837) who was born with a genetic disorder, and never grew taller than 3 feet and 3 inches tall. In his mid-forties he came to Britain and, styling himself Count Boruwlaski, quickly gained fame and invitations to meet the Royal family and all of the ‘principal families’ of the Nobility.
The Folly Flâneuse confesses she has never visited Broadwood’s Folly in Surrey, and although she seldom writes about buildings she has never seen, the photo below explains the interest. Finding an English sparkling wine named after a folly was just too good an opportunity to miss in this festive season.
Being a flâneuse is harder than it sounds, and occasionally one needs a little help from one’s friends. So introducing the first of a series of occasional posts by guest writers. Susan Kellerman, aka The Couth Companion, recounts the history of a garden ornament built for puddings and panoramas.
Barnsley House, in the village of the same name, is one of those picture-perfect Cotswold manor houses of exquisite honey-coloured stone. Built in the last years of the 17th century it passed through various owners, and served as the Rectory, before being purchased by the Verey family in 1939. It came to fame a generation later when David Verey, an architectural historian, and his wife Rosemary inherited the house. Rosemary Verey went on to create one of the most famous gardens in Britain, and even those who have never visited (including, until this week, The Folly Flâneuse) would recognise the laburnum avenue underplanted with alliums that has graced many a calendar and greetings card.
The grandly-named ‘Temple of Naval Heroes’ stands at the end of a narrow causeway that leads from the grounds of Storrs Hall out into the water, offering magnificent views up and down the lake. The temple was constructed by Sir John Legard of Storrs Hall as an ornament to the new house he had built in the last years of the eighteenth century, and as an expression of his patriotism, Sir John being ‘passionately attached to his country’. The octagonal building carries plaques celebrating four great naval victors in the ongoing war against the French– Admirals Howe, St Vincent, Duncan and Nelson.
This sham castle folly was built to ornament the ‘beautiful grounds’ of the house which is now called Thornborough Hall, on the edge of Leyburn in the Yorkshire Dales*. Part of the gardens was developed for housing in the 20th century, but there is still plenty of interest if one sets off to explore the woodland behind the hall.
Studley Royal, near Ripon, stays comfortably in the upper reaches of the list of most-visited National Trust properties, helped by the fact that the landscape garden features that epitome of eye-catchers, Fountains Abbey. But only a few miles away from Studley’s shops and scones is Hackfall, a tranquil vale* which is sublime, romantic and wild – and totally devoid of facilities. Both were created in the 18th century by the Aislabie family of Studley.
The grounds of Kyre Park were laid out in the second half of the 18th century for the Pytts family. A roughly horseshoe string of ponds was created, with ornamental cascades and bridges, and this landscape formed the backdrop to pageants and garden parties in the Edwardian era. In 1930 the estate was sold, and a series of institutional tenants then occupied the house. In the 1980s the depressing phrases ‘semi-ruinous’ and ‘partially collapsed’ were used to describe a Hermit’s Cave and a tunnel. But by the end of the century Kyre Park had found its saviours…
“It is a pleasant delusion to think that this is the last fragment of a noble baronial pile” wrote the author of a guide to Roundhay Park in 1872. It was, he explained, simply ‘an object of interest’, the creation of a gentleman of ‘good taste’: in short, a folly.