Miniature models of follies and temples are fairly common, but it is not often that you see one blown up to mansion dimensions. Vestavia, in Alabama, is just that: a Roman temple inflated into a family home with a dining room to seat 42.
Not far from Helmsley, in North Yorkshire, are the dramatic ruins of a Cistercian abbey. Named after the valley of the river Rye in which is sits, Rievaulx Abbey is backed by a huge wooded cliff which rises high above the stonework. Look up and you can just see a glimpse of a classical temple, one of two which ornament the curving grassed terrace which overlooks the abbey.
Last week’s brief post on the sham Druid’s Temple, near Masham, was something of a preamble to The Folly Flâneuse sharing this wonderful letter written by Barbara Jones in 1949. Jones is, of course, the doyenne of folly-spotters, and in this missive she shares the ups and downs of researching for the first edition of Follies & Grottoes. It is a delight to read: camping at the Druid’s Temple, finding Hackfall, and best of all a run-in with the formidable Captain Fordyce, Agent to Lord Hothfield at Skipton Castle. Here’s the unadulterated letter in full:
‘The desire for knowledge and the love of mystery are two of the most powerful human impulses and Stonehenge satisfies both at once. That is why it has never lost its hold over our imagination or our curiosity’.
So wrote Rosemary Hill in her erudite and entertaining history of Britain’s most enigmatic ancient monument. If people were enthralled with this famous site in Wiltshire, how did they react when they found just such a monument in a quiet corner of Yorkshire?
Just outside the city of Málaga is La Concepción, the former seat of the Marquis de Casa Loring, now the Jardín Botánico-Historico. The symbol of the gardens is the Mirador, an open belvedere (built by later owners) with views across the city, but tucked in the shade of the magnificent collection of plants is the Museo Loringiano, a Doric temple which once housed the family’s collection of antiquities.
In the 1760s Sir Thomas Wentworth* (1726-1792) of Bretton Hall, near Wakefield, set about landscaping his park. Initially, he employed Richard Woods, a professional landscape designer, but soon decided he could manage just as well on his own. In the 1770s he added to his grand design without recourse to even the most eminent landscaper of the age: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. A second lake would, he told friends, be completed without the help of ‘Capability or any such pretending Rogues’.
Duddon Grove was once in Cumberland, separated from the Furness peninsula and Lancashire by the river Duddon. A few miles from Broughton-in-Furness, it is tucked away in a quiet corner of the county that is largely free from the tourist hordes. Since the county boundary changes of 1974 it has been in Cumbria. The present house, originally called Duddon Grove, was built by Richard Towers in around 1805, soon after he came into possession of the estate. In the garden stands a very ornate temple with a pediment supported by pillars with Corinthian capitals, and a level of ornamentation not seen on the austere mansion.
Taking it easy as Christmas approaches, the Folly Flâneuse was flicking through a copy of The Home Owner magazine from December 1937. She was delighted to discover one writer’s thoughts on follies at that date. Follies were, he wrote :
‘the natural off-spring of the union of too much money with too little brain…set up ostensibly to improve the view, but really to advertise some wealthy nit-wit’
On that note a very merry Christmas and there will be more nit-wits and their creations in 2019.
The Secret Garden in Wakefield’s Thornes Park features these architectural fragments which have popped up at various locations across the Wakefield district. The pinnacle is a bit of a mystery, but is believed to have been salvaged during a restoration of Wakefield Cathedral. The columns were originally part of the Wakefield Market Cross which was demolished, against the wishes of the people of Wakefield, in 1866 as part of the corporation’s ‘public improvements’. The furious scenes at the public auction of the cross in September 1866 made the papers across Britain. It was bought by a no-nonsense Mr Armitage who said ‘It will do very well for my garden’.