Sedbergh sits in that part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park which is actually in modern day Cumbria, although historically the town was part of the West Riding of Yorkshire. This little summerhouse now belongs to Sedbergh School, which was established in the town in 1525, and their charitable foundation recently led a restoration project to restore the building for community use.
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.
When the great folly builders of the 17th and 18th centuries were erecting statement buildings on the high points of their estates, they can little have known how useful they would be to the Board of Ordnance. The ‘Principal Triangulation of Britain’ was a trigonometric survey, begun in the late 18th century, which by determining precise coordinates of significant landmarks would enable highly accurate mapping. The main landmarks used were church spires, but ‘other remarkable objects’ were picked, and in the first decade of the 19th century over 50 towers, temples, obelisks, summer houses and follies made it into this category.
Brizlee Tower* stands high on Brizlee Hill, near Alnwick, and overlooks Hulne Park, a detached pleasure ground close to the Duke of Northumberland’s principal park at Alnwick Castle. It was built in the late 18th century as a prospect tower and eye-catcher, and also as an object to be visited on a drive from the castle through Hulne Park. The park was designed by ‘the inimitable Brown’, aka Capability, working with local engineers and designers, and was also home to the ruins of mediaeval Hulne Abbey, embellished and repurposed by the Duke and Duchess as a banqueting house, pleasure garden and menagerie for exotic pheasants.
The Folly Flâneuse is playing safe here with the locations of these two structures, as the inhabitants of the villages of Cowling and Sutton in Craven, south of Skipton, each claim a monument as their own. Locals are at least agreed on a nickname: for very obvious reasons the tower and pinnacle are known as the Salt and Pepper Pots.
Charles Back, of the Fairview winery, visited Portugal at the beginning of the 1980s to see how things were done there. Exploring the gardens of a winery, he was fascinated by a Goat Tower, and on his return he introduced the concept to South Africa.
Halifax has been much in the news recently following the restoration of the wondrous Piece Hall, a Georgian cloth trading centre on a monumental scale. But the town is also home to another amazing structure, the Wainhouse Tower, one of the country’s finest follies. Factory chimney turned witness to wealth, it thrusts 253 feet into the sky above the town.
In 1829 William Bettison Esq. purchased a country retreat on Newbegin in Hornsea, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. From here, he commuted by phaeton to Hull, where during his career he was owner of the Humber Street Brewery and proprietor of the Hull Advertiser. The house came with ‘extensive Pleasure Grounds’ and some time around 1844 he constructed this curious tower built of what are called treacle bricks, over-baked rejects from the kiln.
Legend has it that centuries ago local ploughboys built a tower on Greygarth Hill to mark the spot where the last wolf in the region was killed. It’s a great story (but probably a myth) and the tower that stands on the spot today commemorates Queen Victoria.
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.