In 1839 Charles Booker leased a plot of land in the corner of Guildford’s ‘Great Hilly Field’. There’s a clue to his purpose in the name of the site: Booker needed an elevated spot on which to build a ‘prospect tower’. After his death the adjacent land became the town’s cemetery, and the tower passed to the Burial Board (who were reluctant custodians). It later came into the control of the town council, and a contract was signed in 1927 to allow its demolition. But by a quirk of fate the tower survived, and stands tall today.
In the town of Camberley a truncated tower stands on a hilltop surrounded by trees. This is the surviving remnant of an elegant tower, built by John Norris, which stood on the open country known as Bagshot Heath. It has been known since its earliest days as ‘The Obelisk’, for in the 18th century the term was sometimes used to describe any tall, tapering structure. Although only a sorry stump remains, it has the most fascinating history.
The ruinous shell of the Whitehill Tower stands on high ground with extensive views across Surrey and down towards the south coast. It was built by Jeremiah Long in the middle of the 19th century as an ornament in the grounds of his Surrey villa, but has been neglected for years and desperately needs attention before it topples to the ground.
Denton Welch was a talented artist and writer, but his career was sadly cut short by his early death in 1948. A few years before he died he described an ornate 18th century grotto in one of his novels: the fabulous grotto was for real, but it was demolished in the same year that Welch died, making his description all the more poignant.
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.
Oswell Blakeston (1907-1985), was born Henry Joseph Hasslacher, and created his nom de plume by condensing ‘Osbert Sitwell’, whom he admired, into ‘Oswell’ and adding his mother’s maiden name. He was a British writer and artist with wide interests, and one of his passions was follies; his role in bringing the genre to a wider audience deserves to be better known.
Beaverbrook is a sumptuous country house hotel close to Dorking in Surrey. It was formerly the home of Lord Beaverbrook, the press baron, who found it by accident, and snapped it up, whilst out motoring with Rudyard Kipling in 1911. His house guests at Cherkley Court, as it then was, included luminaries from politics, the arts and show business. Winston Churchill dictated letters from his bath, Jean Cocteau painted a glass panel that remains above a door and Elizabeth Taylor provided Hollywood glamour.