architecture, Art, Column, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, Grotto, hermitage, Monument, Rustic shelter, sham castle

Follies and Pharmaceuticals: a Curious Concoction

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.

The artist who created the striking cover illustration is sadly not credited.

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).

The Pineapple. Described by Jones as ‘superbly designed and made, a joy even in the rain’, which was indeed the weather when the Folly Flâneuse visited.

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).

The Burton Pynsent Monument. Photo courtesy of The Garden Historian. Apparently a heifer was spotted peering out of one of the windows at the top…

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.

Your thoughts are always welcome – just scroll down to the comments box to get in touch. Thank you for reading.


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15 thoughts on “Follies and Pharmaceuticals: a Curious Concoction”

  1. Ian Wright says:

    Have you found Booker’s Tower in Guildford? It can be found in a corner of the Mount Cemetery above the town to the west. I can’t find it with your search tool. I can supply more details if you let me have your email address. Near Booker’s Tower is the tower on Chinthurst Hill too.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Ian. Surrey is top of my list for exploring as I haven’t featured many follies or landscape ornaments from that part of the world. Suggestions are always gratefully received. If you click on the ‘contact’ button you can email me and I’d be pleased to hear from you.

  2. Gand says:

    Well done the Flaneuse. Just the cure the doctor ordered for any potential Saturday blues.

    1. Editor says:

      Good morning Gand and many thanks. Certainly need some cheer – where has summer gone?

  3. Barbara says:

    I love these little stories on a Saturday morning.
    Thank you.

    1. Editor says:

      Thank you Barbara. Your kind comments encourage me to keep searching for folly tales to tell.

  4. John Malaiperuman says:

    A superb read for a Saturday morning and what fantastic descriptions and sketches!

    1. Editor says:

      Hello John. I was very excited to discover this little publication, and couldn’t wait to get home and find out more about it. It was great fun to research so I am pleased to know that you enjoyed reading about it.

  5. Colin Addy says:

    Thanks! Another wonderful example of what fun you can have with an enquiring mind! Thanks for sharing it with us all!

    1. Editor says:

      Thank you for reading! And thank you Colin for taking the time to show your appreciation.

  6. John Davies says:

    What a surprising tale! Evidently Follies refresh the parts other interests don’t. The Dunmore Pineapple was my introduction to follies….. the BBC film c 1970(?) with Spike Milligan, if anyone remembers that?

  7. Iain Gray says:

    The Spike Milligan programme inspired me to jump in my car and drive to Yeovil to see Jack the Treacle Eater. When I got there the sky was as black as night, there were cattle surrounding Jack and I had the joy of chatting to the owner Squire Messiter. Unforgettable!

    1. Editor says:

      Well done Iain! You were definitely in the right place at the right time. The folly must be particularly mysterious against a dark sky.

  8. Charles Cowling says:

    FF, thank you for the intro to Barbara Jones, who I had never heard of. She’s unsung for sure — overshadowed perhaps by Ravilious, Bawden & co — and deserves to be better known.

  9. Kate Dyson says:

    Hello Barbara,
    I loved that fascinating last post. You always come up with something that surprises.

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