Folly, Monument, Temples, West Yorkshire

Victoria Arch, Leeds, West Yorkshire

In 1752 the architect James Paine provided plans to remodel New Grange, Walter Wade’s seat in open country outside the then town of Leeds. The views were ‘most beautiful and extensive’ and the dramatic ruins of the cistercian Kirkstall Abbey were included in the prospect. By the end of the century the Wades no longer resided at New Grange, and the house was let before appearing on the market on a number of occasions. In 1829 George Robins, famed as the the man ‘of auction renown, who made a great fortune by knocking things down’, offered the estate for sale and with his usual hyperbole stated that it was ‘uniformly accounted THE DISTINGUISHING FEATURE NEAR LEEDS’. His newspaper advertisement went on to describe the Terrace Walk as ‘incredibly beautiful’ with a ‘Panorama’ of THE VENERABLE ABBEY OF KIRKSTALL AND ITS MASSIVE RUINS’.

New Grange was purchased by the Leeds banker William Beckett in 1832 and renamed Kirkstall Grange. Beckett was an eminent man in Leeds and entertained luminaries from the aristocracy, the church and the mercantile world at his home. He had however set his sights on hosting the most important personage in Britain: Queen Victoria had agreed to preside over the inauguration of the new Town Hall in Leeds, which was scheduled to open in autumn 1858, and Beckett hoped she would stay at Kirkstall Grange.

In preparation for this event Beckett remodelled the mansion, and erected this monument at the end of a walk in a plantation that became known as Queen’s Wood. Although the arch is now engulfed in trees, at the time of its completion it was on the edge of the woodland with a vista to the abbey. The arch may have been built out of fragments from the rebuilding of the house and it was decorated in the same Minton tiles that were used extensively in the new Town Hall. The lettering reads: TO COMMEMORATE THE VISIT OF QUEEN VICTORIA TO LEEDS SEPR 7 1858 FOR THE INAUGURATION OF THE TOWN HALL.

 

Beckett was to be disappointed. His ‘large house party’ did not include the monarch, who chose to stay elsewhere.

Kirkstall Grange, now better known as Beckett Park, is a campus of Leeds Beckett University. The arch is grade II listed.

Folly, West Yorkshire

Triumphal Arch and Sham Ruin, Parlington Park, Aberford, West Yorkshire

Photo courtesy of Brian Hull

In the later decades of the 18th century Parlington, near Aberford, was improved by Sir Thomas Gascoigne, 8th Bart, and it was he who built this arch to a design by Thomas Leverton. Construction was underway in 1781 when the Leeds Intelligencer reported that ‘some evil-minded Person or Persons’ had maliciously damaged the partly- built arch and destroyed two capitals and other mouldings in the mason’s shed. A reward of £10 was offered to anyone who approached Sir Thomas or his Head Gardener with information.

Grotto, West Yorkshire

Bellman’s Castle, West Nab, near Meltham, West Yorkshire

Courtesy Kirklees Image Archive

In 1920 the Yorkshire Post published a letter about a mysterious cave, or grotto, at West Nab on moorland above Meltham on the western edge of Yorkshire. The correspondent believed the structure had been built around 1500 years earlier as the dwelling of the pagan god Baal – hence it’s being known as ‘Bellman’s Castle’.

Folly, Grotto, West Yorkshire

Happy 65th anniversary ‘Follies and Grottoes’

A great stumbling block in the understanding of follies is the attempt to define what exactly one is. Must it be useless? Wildly expensive? Weird? One of my favourite summaries comes from Barbara Jones, the first person to study the genre in depth in Follies and Grottoes, published by Constable 65 years ago today 

She wrote that a folly ‘is built for pleasure, and pleasure is personal, difficult to define.’

Towers, West Yorkshire

The Ruin, Bingley, West Yorkshire

‘The fast lock’d tower where ivy loves to creep,
Seems like the remains of some old Castle Keep’

So wrote the little-known Yorkshire poet Robert Carrick Wildon, in contemplative mood, at The Ruin in around 1850. His poem ‘Lines suggested while sitting at the Ruins’ was recently discovered and you can read it all here http://www.friendsofstives.org.uk/history/the_ruins.php

The Ruin, as it is called on the earliest OS maps, was built by Benjamin Ferrand and is inscribed with his initials and the year 1796. Also known as Ferrand’s Folly, or Harden Grange Folly, there is no explanation for why it later became known as St David’s Ruin. 

Folly, Monument, Temples, West Yorkshire

The Monument, Whitley Beaumont, West Yorkshire

The Monument c.1900

Capability Brown drew up a plan for the landscape at Whitley Beaumont which was implemented by Richard Beaumont in the 1780s. The Monument was probably built as an eye-catcher from a new carriage drive, and existed by 1822 when it is shown on an estate map, but not named. It is marked as ‘The Monument’ on the 1850s ordnance survey map but no-one remembers why it was given this name, or what it might be a monument to.

Built of fragments of masonry, probably rescued from a remodelling of the hall, and embellished with battered statuary, this is a fabulous folly and was surely designed by the family themselves. It’s unlikely an eminent architect would wish to take the credit.

The monument fell into disrepair during the two world wars when the park was used for army training and mined for coal as part of the war effort. Today the fragments survive as a forlorn and overgrown pile of stones.

The park at Whitley Beaumont is strictly private.

Folly, West Yorkshire

The Folly Flâneuse at The Print Project

First of the 4 runs through the press

The Folly Flâneuse recently enjoyed a great day at The Print Project in Shipley, West Yorkshire, learning all about letterpress printing. Owner Nick was patient, erudite and entertaining; chatting about the history of print as we worked on the practical stuff. So many common phrases come from the world of printing, he explained, so I was grateful not to be ‘out of sorts’ and was careful to ‘mind my Ps and Qs’. I know I ‘made an impression’ as here it is above. In fact I made a hundred impressions and it was hard work.