In the early 18th century Bramham Park, just south of Wetherby in West Yorkshire, was the seat of Robert Benson, 1st Baron Bingley. His laying-out of the park was summarised by Lady Oxford after her visit in 1745: ‘Lord Bingley has adorned a barren country in a most delightful manner with water and wood walks’. The next generation continued his work, and their additions included a little gothic temple which could be seen from different viewpoints in the gardens.
At Rydal Hall in Cumbria is an unassuming little garden building. It was built by Sir Daniel Fleming, in the last years of the 1680s, as a summerhouse from which to view of one of the series of cascades on the Rydal Beck that flowed though his estate.
Moments from the Great North Road, as it passes through Lincolnshire, is Stoke Rochford Hall in its lovely undulating park. The present house is a delicious early Victorian confection of towers and turrets, contemporary with the obelisk. But there were earlier houses in the park, and two intriguing arches are reminders of an earlier age.
With St Valentine’s Day approaching, the Folly Flâneuse wondered which were the most romantic garden buildings. The most famous expression of love in an architectural form is surely the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favourite wife. But closer to home are three equally enchanting buildings built as monuments to lost loves – two real, and one imaginary, and each likened to the marble mausoleum in India.
Sir George Staunton bought the Leigh Park estate in 1820, and set to work remodelling the house and ornamenting the park with an eclectic range of garden buildings. Many are sadly lost today, but a programme of restoration, in what is now Staunton Country Park, is bringing some of the survivors back to life. One of the loveliest of the garden ornaments is this exquisite little Shell-House.
High above Newby Bridge in Cumbria (formerly Lancashire) stands Finsthwaite Tower. When first built it was a prominent landmark on a bare hill, and commanded an extensive prospect of sea, lake and mountains. The tower was built by James King of Finsthwaite House as an ornament to the landscape, and as a monument to naval prowess. And to start 2022 with some really good news, after decades of decay the tower has a new owner, and a new lease of life.
Skelton Tower stands high above Levisham in the North York Moors National Park. Once a moorland retreat, it is now a remote and romantic ruin.
A building that needs little, if any, introduction: the ne plus ultra of follies. But one that continues to perplex, as no architect has ever been identified for this the most ornate and glorious of garden buildings, erected in 1761 for Lord Dunmore. Very few early accounts can be found, but in 1768 a visitor wrote of emerging from woodland to find a pleasure house of which the ‘top part is built exactly in the form of a pineapple’.
The flanking walls supported glasshouses, and were heated to enable the growing of fruit – including pineapples, presumably. Adjacent to the ‘beautiful Pine-apple Summer house’ were four lodging rooms for the gardeners.
The Pineapple centrepiece is now leased by the Landmark Trust and provides lodging rooms for holidaymakers. The grounds and walled garden belong to the National Trust for Scotland, and are in need of a little love and attention when funds are available.
A brief post this week as the Folly Flâneuse is taking a week off to catch up after a Scottish sojourn (so expect more delights from that trip) and will then be heading off once again in pursuit of pavilions and on the trail of towers. Thank you for reading.
For stays in the Pineapple see https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/search-and-book/properties/pineapple-10726/#Overview
In the mid-19th century, the inhabitants of the rapidly-expanding town of Nottingham could spend their leisure hours at the Radford Grove Tavern and Tea Gardens. Here they could row on the lake, attend dances, and admire the view from the roof of a very pretty ‘Octagonal Pleasure House’.
In the early 1940s the artist Rex Whistler completed the illustrations for a book in his breaks from training with the Welsh Guards, working on the drawings in the army huts where he was stationed. The book was The Last of Uptake by Simon Harcourt-Smith, and the reviews agreed that here was ‘the perfect blend of artist and writer’.