Barbara Jones is best known to readers of these pages as the author of Follies & Grottoes (1953, revised 1974), the first book to consider the subject of garden and landscape buildings in any detail. She also wrote books about popular art, erotic postcards and furniture amongst other subjects, and as an illustrator and designer her work appeared in magazines, on calendars, dustjackets, greetings telegrams and much, much more.
One of the more unlikely places where her work could be found was in an elegant little magazine called Pan. Published on behalf of the pharmaceutical company Schering A G Berlin, Pan was sent to doctors and medical professionals and featured advertisments for the company’s ‘sex hormone preparations’ alongside medically themed cartoons by the likes of Michael Heath. Issues were compiled and produced by Napper Stinton Woolley, an advertising agency based in London’s Soho.
Magazine number 61 appeared in January 1969 and contained a very entertaining review of the spoof ‘Post-Op Art Explosion’ exhibition at the fictitious ‘Medic’s Gallery’ (very clever) by the Yorkshire GP Leonard Rosenthal. There was also a most peculiar short story about aphrodisiacs, and then, incongruously, an article by Barbara Jones about Follies with a wonderful title illustration:
The brief editorial introduction suggested that readers might like to take a ‘cosy afternoon run in the car’ to find a hermitage, or ruined tower, or counterfeit castle, and then Jones is given three pages to elaborate.
She began with a definition, describing a folly as a ‘largely pointless fantastic structure built by a fashionable land-owner in the eighteenth century’, and concluded that they were ‘a very clear manifestation of a certain quirky streak in the English character and they may look something like this:’
Jones picked out some of her favourites: the Sham Castle on the Bath skyline (top picture), the Pineapple at Dunmore in Scotland, Clytha Castle near Abergavenny and Jack the Treacle Eater in Somerset (all of which have featured in these pages – use the search button to find out more).
Moving on from the curious tales attached to Jack the Treacle Eater, Jones recounted the then recent story attached to the monument to William Pitt at Burton Pynsent, also in Somerset: in 1948 a cow is said to have climbed the spiral stair and, after rescue attempts failed, fell to its death from the top. (There has been some debate about the veracity of this tale: newspaper reports in 1947 and 1948 tell of heifers climbing the tower, but on both occasions with a rescued cow and a happy ending).
After describing the thrilling chill of grottoes Jones declared that ‘the Hermitage type of Folly is much more cheerful’. Her accompanying sketch illustrated how they were ‘picturesquely confected from rocks, branches, moss and bark, with a simple room or two, a rustic sacking bed, tables and chairs made from tree stumps…’
Jones ended her brief introduction to follies with some words of advice that remain pertinent for anyone embarking on a folly-finding expedition today – take a map, a torch and a flask of tea.
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