Tucked in the corner of a garden in the town of Frome, Somerset, stands a little tower with a conical roof topped with a pineapple. This flamboyant finial, like the rest of the folly, is the work of the talented and resourceful Nigel Day: the uppermost leaves started life as a copper hot water cylinder.
Day has lived in this quiet Frome street for around three decades, during which time he has renovated and extended a rundown cottage. Carvings, inscriptions, secret doors and a clock tower are all his own work, and somehow he has also found time to build a folly.
He took some time to decide on the form this folly would take, knowing only that he wanted it to feature a terracotta scallop shell which he had picked up in a reclamation yard many years earlier. Abandoning the idea of a sham castle or an obelisk, he decided on a circular tower, with the shell as an overdoor, and work began in 2006.
Everything was built to meet the building regulations of the day: the footings go down about five or six feet. Such is Day’s attention to detail that each of the trapezium-shaped roof tiles was cut by hand: this job alone took four weeks. Day’s son helped get the reconstituted Bath stone blocks into place, but otherwise he executed all of the work himself – apart from the handsome metal gates which were made to his design by a local blacksmith. Day even carved the iguana which basks on the outer wall.
With the exterior complete Day needed a little help from his friends. They were recruited for the onerous task of banqueting on scallops and crab (washed down with plenty of Muscadet) to provide materials for the interior decoration. With additional shells purchased from a specialist supplier, Day set to work creating the shellwork, which depicts the circle of life in the sea. This idea was inspired by John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez, in which the author realises that there is no such thing as an old fish: everything in the oceans is eaten by another creature.
Shellfish also appear on the tiled floor, which Day designed and painted himself and fired in a borrowed kiln. Day’s favourite books are Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, and he continued the shellfish theme by featuring the poem of The Walrus and the Carpenter, in which the little oysters are tricked into becoming lunch.
Day has enjoyed his folly now for fifteen years but has two regrets. One is that the bats which initially seemed interested in roosting in the roof-space have never settled in, and the second is that he wishes he had created a hollow tube up through the roof, through which he could have launched rockets on fireworks night.
Day remains full of ideas, and it is very unlikely that this is a garden that will ever stand still. The garden is private, but opens occasionally for charity.
Thanks to Nigel for a warm welcome, and to he and Paul Salter for help with photographs. The Folly Flâneuse visited on a bleak day – main pic – and didn’t get to enjoy the summerhouse in the sunshine.
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17 thoughts on “Curiouser & Curiouser: a Folly in Frome, Somerset”
Always interesting to hear about other people’s passions and contemporary follies, as well as the old ones – keep them coming as inspiration.
One day, like most of us I expect, I’ll get round to it!😆
Good morning James. I am in awe of Nigel’s skills and will stick to writing about follies! Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Susan Kellerman says:
This is just the loveliest folly, in the true character of all of the most successful follies. Beautifully designed and executed, with patience, dedication and love. A delight to the eye.
Thank you to Nigel Day (and the FF) for brightening our Saturday morning – even if it is only a vicarious experience.
Hello Susan. It’s a delight. It certainly brightened my day when I saw it – in torrential rain.
Judy Popley says:
What a wonderful little folly and how clever are you, finding it!
It’s just a little gem and the workmanship both outside and inside is astonishing. What a glorious building. Thanks for sharing with us all. Please thank Nigel and his friends for creating such a delightful building that just makes you smile.
Good morning Judy. I agree completely. I can’t take the credit for finding it though – a very good folly friend told me about it and serendipitously I was in the area and lucky enough to be invited to see it. I will make sure Nigel sees your comments.
Garance Anna Rawinsky says:
How wonderful to see such a delight – thank you, and of course thanks to Nigel.
Such a tonic to see that people still have a combination of vision, time, money, knowledge, humour, family and friends to bring required craft skills together – banqueting and imbibing included.
Hello Garance. Great observations. I am somewhat better at banqueting and imbibing than I am at carpentry, masonry etc: thank goodness for the Nigels of this world.
John Holland says:
Wonderful! Such a beautiful folly! I only hope that in many years’ time, a future ‘folly flaneuse’ stumbles across it – in a ruined state of course(!) – and tells the story for others to enjoy.
Great thought! It would make a romantic ruin. But let’s hope Nigel gets to enjoy it for many more years first.
Moira Garland says:
Fascinated by the building and appearance of the Frome folly. If I weren’t so far away I’d try and visit, not least because it was the first place my late mum retired to. She spent 15 good years there when my late brother and I, and our children, made regular visits to Frome, and of course the surrounding area. Later my mum moved further north to be nearer us.
Thanks for another interesting blog on another folly.
Hello Moura. I’m pleased you have memories of Frome, it’s a lovely town. Hopefully Nigel will be opening the garden next year and some more local readers will be able to visit.
Jane Padfield says:
This folly bears a certain resemblance to the lock-up at Castle Cary, which isn’t very far from Frome (although the roof is quite different). I wonder if the lock-up was inspirational in the choice of design for the summerhouse?
Good afternoon Jane. I will ask Nigel if the lock-up was an inspiration.
Hello again. Nigel wasn’t aware of the Castle Cary lock-up, so it wasn’t an influence, but he is pleased to know about it now.
Ivan Burrow says:
Absolutely brilliant, I would like to have something like this if only I had a bigger garden
Hello Ivan. Me too!