Just over the river Ure from the market town of Masham is this unusual rotunda sitting on top of a rustic grotto. It was designed to take advantage of the view over the river to the church and the attractive little town. An engraved stone near the temple tells us that in 1770 ‘Samuel Wrather built this grotto’.
In the middle of the 18th century the Earl of Strafford was embellishing his seat at Wentworth Castle near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. A new wing was added to the mansion and the grounds were decorated with temples, columns and garden seats. Strafford asked his lifelong friend Horace Walpole for advice on an ornament for his menagerie, and this little gothic temple was the result.
In 1954 Agatha Christie wrote a novella which was intended to raise money for her local church. Upon completion she was so taken with the story that she decided to develop it into a full novel, and submitted a different story to the fundraising effort. The work she had originally written was called Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly, and this work was expanded and eventually published in 1956 as Dead Man’s Folly.
Until the middle of the 19th century visitors to Harewood House, near Leeds, could open the doors of the Saloon (today known as the Main Library) on the piano nobile and ‘walk out upon the fine portico’. From there they could admire the lake and plantations created by the finest landscape designers of the 18th century, and on the horizon they would glimpse a fine domed temple.
The Folly Flâneuse celebrated her birthday this week, and what better way to mark the occasion than with an enormous cake? Although sadly, this one is not edible. As many of the buildings featured in these pages are gone, it was a real birthday treat to see this new folly, recently constructed to ornament the Waddesdon landscape.
Lady Amabel Yorke was the elder daughter of Philip Yorke, 2nd Earl of Hardwicke, and his wife Jemima Campbell, 2nd Marchioness Grey, 4th Baroness Lucas. Their family seats were Wrest Park, Bedfordshire, and Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, both of which had parks that were remodelled by Capability Brown with Amabel being privy to the design decisions. She was, then, rather well-informed on matters of landscape gardening, and her 37 volumes of diaries contain countless accounts of visits to the seats of her friends and family, where she sometimes notes follies and garden ornaments.
On high ground in Weston Park, ancestral seat of the earls of Bradford, stands this prospect tower. Although Weston Park is in Staffordshire, the knoll on which the tower stands is just over the border into Shropshire, and it was formerly home to another monument, allegedly built for the most repulsive of reasons.
Jezreel’s Tower, which once stood on Chatham Hill in Gillingham, was one of those unfinished fantasies that became folly after their original purpose had failed. This architectural extravaganza was built as home to the ‘New and Latter House of Israel’, a religious group founded in the late 19th century which had a short and very colourful history, and left behind a unique building.
In 1981-82 the Royal Mail issued a set of stamp books featuring follies, and Richard Downer, an artist best known for the vast number of lovely line drawings he provided for the covers of Britain’s telephone directories, was commissioned to provided the illustrations. Of the six follies featured, five survive today and are very familiar to anyone with an interest in the subject, but one was relatively obscure, and has a rather interesting history.
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.