The rotunda at Stowe in Buckinghamshire was designed by Vanbrugh in around 1720, and stands on a sweeping lawn in front of the grand mansion. In the middle of the 20th century author T.H. White used a little artistic licence, and for the purposes of his story moved it to an island in one of the two lakes. There it became home to a colony of tiny people, and the adventure that is Mistress Masham’s Repose began.
With vaccines very much in the news at the moment, The Folly Flâneuse was reminded that a little rustic hut, in a garden in Gloucestershire, played a role in the development of inoculation in Britain and across the world. In May 1796 Edward Jenner successfully vaccinated a child against smallpox, and as news of his work spread globally, he began to inoculate the poor of his neighbourhood in this summerhouse in his garden.
This weekend the country celebrates the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Thinking of the events of 1939-45, the Folly Flâneuse was reminded of a wartime project to document the changing rural and urban face of Britain. At a time when the future seemed uncertain, ‘Recording Britain’ commissioned artists to portray the country as it then was, creating a visual history for future generations.
The weather has not been conducive to folly-spotting, so The Folly Flâneuse is looking back to a trip to the Mediterranean island of Malta, where this imposing monument to Sir Alexander John Ball can be found. Situated in the Lower Barraka Gardens, it was erected by public subscription to commemorate Ball’s role in governing a peaceful Malta in the first years of the 19th century.
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.
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.
1814 saw the centenary of the ascension of the House of Hanover to the British throne. Although it was only a few years since George III had celebrated a reign of 50 years, it was decided that a grand national fête would be held in August to mark the occasion, an event which would also commemorate ‘General Peace’ and the anniversary of the ‘Glorious Battle of the Nile’.
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.
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…
On Sunday, The Folly Flâneuse was one of the happy few who discovered the location of the Secret Salons, three venues which combined the finest music and architecture. As part of Richmond’s annual festival celebrating all things Georgian, the evening was a fundraiser for the town’s Theatre Royal, a unique intact survivor from that era. Participants promenaded between three lovely venues, but of course the one that gave the greatest joy to the present writer was the Culloden Tower.