architecture, Banqueting House, Buckinghamshire, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, sham castle, Summerhouse

Dinton Folly, Dinton, Buckinghamshire

Close to the little village of Dinton, near Aylesbury, stands an imposing 18th century folly called Dinton Castle. 250 years after it was first built it shot to fame on the TV show Grand Designs. But to mark the 200th post on these pages, the Folly Flâneuse intends to enjoy a Dinton Folly of a very different kind.

In 2013 Laurie Kimber was pondering what to do with a field that he owned. Retired, and with time on his hands, he decided to plant a vineyard. He named his first sparkling wine Dinton Folly, partly in homage to nearby Dinton Castle, and partly as a ‘nod to the idea of taking on such a project later in life’.

Arthur Devis, Portrait of Sir John van Hatten, 1753. courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, PD.114-1992. CC BY-NC-ND.

Before the celebrations begin, perhaps a quick look at Dinton Castle. It was built by Sir John Vanhattem* (1724-1787) of Dinton Hall as an eye-catcher, banqueting house, and repository for his mineral collection. The foundation stone was laid in 1769, and there was great excitement amongst antiquarians when human remains and ancient artefacts were unearthed during the building works.

A wonderful view of Dinton Castle as sketched by Jane Smyth, no date. Courtesy of Buckinghamshire Archives, D-LE/K.27.

The folly was designed to look like a ruined castle from the outside, although there were rooms inside for picnics and parties. Sir John died in 1787 and the next generation did not share his interest in the folly. By 1796 it was falling into disrepair, with a visitor in that year noting the building ‘representing the remains of a castle, in w[hi]ch has been a room to entertain company’. Sadly the tourist concluded that ‘it is now fast becoming a real ruin’.

Postcard, probably early 20th century. Courtesy of a private collection.

This decay continued, but what had become a romantic ruin attracted the attention of artists in the 20th century:

McKnight Kauffer’s poster in the excellent Shell Heritage Art Collection display at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, Hampshire. Apologies for the odd angle to get rid of some reflection.

Edward McKnight Kauffer painted Dinton Castle for one of the large posters displayed on Shell’s fleet of petrol delivery lorries in the 1930s;  and John Piper painted it at the request of Roger White, Secretary of the Georgian Group, in 1985, and the work was then auctioned to raise funds for the heritage charity. Piper also produced a lithograph based on the painting. But not everyone found the folly so enchanting, and a photo taken for the National Monument Record in 1944 is annotated rather dismissively with the caption ‘a sham castle built to improve the view from someone’s drawing room in the 18th century’.

Dinton Castle’s importance was recognised in 1951 when it was first listed as a building of special architectural and historic interest, but it continued to crumble. Some remedial work was carried out by the local authority in the first decade of the present century, but the folly remained an empty shell until Spanish architect Jaime Fernandez bought the property in 2016, and set about creating a family home from the ruin.

The pristine Dinton Castle today.

The project was featured on the popular Grand Designs TV show, generating a huge amount of press interest, as well as some argument between those who saw a dream home, and those who preferred the folly’s former ‘decrepit glory’ (to borrow a phrase from John Piper). The grade II* building changed hands in 2021.

The Folly Flâneuse will now enjoy a glass, and then get back to fossicking for follies.

For more on Dinton Castle, including the opportunity to stay in the folly, visit https://www.dintoncastle.com

You can buy Dinton Folly wine https://dintonwines.com from BeerGinVino (does what it says on the tin/bottle) in nearby Haddenham https://beerginvino.com. The Folly Flaneuse’s ramblings are fuelled by good coffee, and Norsk in Haddenham provided this along with an excellent celebratory cinnamon bun https://www.norsklifestyle.com

* sometimes van Hatten or Vanhatten.

Thank you to readers old and new, and to everyone who has helped in any way since the tentative beginnings of this website almost four years ago. Especial thanks to four people: my ‘Uncouth Companion’, who is seldom seen but is ever-present and ever-appreciated; Mike Cousins, aka the Garden Historian, whose contributions are invaluable; and Gwyn Headley and Wim Meulenkamp who have inspired me since I picked up their first book on follies many years ago. As ever, comments are most welcome – please scroll down the page to get in touch. Cheers!

 

 

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28 thoughts on “Dinton Folly, Dinton, Buckinghamshire”

  1. Gand says:

    200 not out. Bravo. May you long keep foraying for follies, Flaneuse.
    Too early to raise a glass so a flat white is raised to your good self and the uncouth companion.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Gand. I’m also enjoying a coffee in the sunshine. Have a good weekend.

      1. Norma says:

        We are all richer for your foraging for our fodder in follydom. May the fossicked gems continue to be revealed ad infinitum. What a hobby!

        1. Editor says:

          Hello Norma. I can’t compete with this alliteration, so I will just say “fank-you”.

  2. Jane says:

    Congratulations on the double century! Here’s to the next hundred (in coffee, again, I’m afraid)

    1. Editor says:

      Many thanks Jane. Coffee is fine by me!

  3. GRANVILLE D CLARKE says:

    what a great piece of history and the saving grace of restoration by a spaniard !…the watercolours apart from the shell poster were very amateur -but serve as a useful document in a historical sense…I presume you are aware of the special book on Lodges and folly’s ‘Trumpet at a Distant gate’ …? which has a great collection ..I renovated a the Georgian Lodge to Cannon hall cawthorne through the 1980’s..and also raised funds to restore a folly / belevedere summer house in nearby Deffer woods cawthorne..featured in my book of paintings and poetry ….good to see nearby Wentworth needle featured…
    BEST WISHES….TV artist Granville danny Clarke F.R.S.A.

    1. Editor says:

      Good afternoon Granville. Yes, I have ‘Trumpet at a Distant Gate’, but haven’t dipped into it for a while, so thank you for the reminder. Thank you also for telling me about your book. I mentioned the Deffer Wood summerhouse last week – it’s a lovely structure. Congratulations on your part in the restoration.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello again. I will check your email address is on the list and get back to you.

  4. J St Brioc Hooper says:

    I commend you on your energy and unstoppable enthusiasm and along with your other admirers, thank you so much for your weekly forays into follydom. All best wishes, John.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello John. Lovely to hear from you, and thank you for taking the time to get in touch. Your appreciation certainly helps keep me enthusiastic.

  5. John Holland says:

    Many congratulations! I love reading your ‘ramblings’ – a weekly treat! More please!!

    1. Editor says:

      That’s very kind John. I will do my best!

  6. Catherine Thompson-McCausland says:

    Congratulations on the 200th post! Thank you for endless interest and enjoyment. Long may the fossicking continue!
    Best wishes
    Catherine

    1. Editor says:

      Thank you so much Catherine. I’m hoping I have a few more folly stories in me yet!

  7. Garance Rawinsky says:

    Fossicking for Follies – what a lovely thing. Not sure that 200 cups of coffee or cinnamon buns are necessarily to be applauded but since they seem to be fuel for your endless sharing of knowledge and adventures I say – Many thanks and Congratulations. I shall raise a glass next weekend to the Flaneuse and her companion.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Garance. It was my first ever cinnamon bun, but so good it won’t be the last. Don’t dare count the cups of coffee! Look forward to raising a glass with you.

  8. Lisa Corby says:

    Congratulations on your 200th post! 🎉🥂🍾
    Always enjoy your posts and our educational trips out 🎓🏰 xx

    1. Editor says:

      Thank you Lisa. We must plan some more folly jaunts!

  9. Keith Cattell says:

    Thank you Folly Flaneuse for keeping me endlessly entertained, although i have only seen the last forty or so: 200 is a remarkable achievement. I do have a small 1837 Gothic folly in Wolverhampton, by Thomas Rickman,, but it is probably so small it would be below your interest horizon.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Keith. No folly is ever too small for me. Thank you for letting me know about it and I will be in touch.

  10. Iain says:

    Brilliant innings so far! I’ve visited Dinton Castle many times, last was post Grand Designs and I hope to see it restored to ruin one day. Hartwell House is just round the corner where you should join us one day for the finest tea in England. Best wishes from a Covid household.

    1. Editor says:

      Thanks Iain. Sorry to hear you are confined with Covid. Hope you are soon over it. Tea at Hartwell House is always a treat so I will take you up on that offer one day!

  11. Nick Addington says:

    Congratulations on this milestone! Always impressed by your research and the many illustrations that accompany your fascinating articles. Glad you seem to get up to Scotland from time to time- plenty more fossicking potential up here!

    1. Editor says:

      Thank you Nick. The only reason I am not in Scotland more often is that there are not enough days in the week. Further trips are booked so watch this space!

  12. Roger White says:

    Just to add a small clarification to the very interesting piece on the Dinton folly. The John Piper lithograph mentioned was developed by him from a painting that he did at my request to be auctioned at a Georgian Group charity event at Somerset House. As far as I know it is still owned by the successful bidder on that occasion.
    I have a feeling, having known Piper, that he would have been equivocal about the very smart restoration and upgrade of the building – he tended to prefer such structures in a state of picturesque decay. But of course he was aware, as we all are, that picturesque decay inexorably slides into collapse, ruination and ultimate disappearance. A difficult and perennial dilemma.

    1. Editor says:

      Good afternoon Roger, and many thanks for taking the time to explain how the Piper lithograph came to be. I will update the post with this information. You are very privileged to have known John so well, and I am sure you are right in your assessment of how he would have reacted to the restoration of Dinton Castle. A dilemma indeed and, as you say, others will have to be faced again in the future.

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