Few follies can be said to have directly contributed to coastal erosion, but one example can be found in the lovely little village of Hunmanby, near Filey. Early in the 19th century Humphrey Osbaldeston, of Hunmanby Hall, took stone from the rocky coastal outcrop called Filey Brigg, and used it to erect this rustic entrance arch.
Humphrey Osbaldeston died in 1835, aged 92, and his obituary in the Gentleman’s Magazine remembered him as a ‘very worthy man, with some peculiarities and eccentricities of character’. Sadly, the publication failed to elaborate on what these quirks and quiddities might have been. Osbaldeston seems to have been the archetypal squire; filling his time with horses and hounds when he was not serving the community as a Justice of the Peace, or raising a regiment of volunteer militia to protect the east coast from a French invasion.
The lodge was built in the last years of the 1820s, using the stone which had been ‘blown up’ into manageable pieces at Filey Brigg. The finishing touch was a large fossilised ammonite as a decorative feature above the arch. An account of the arch, written very soon after it was constructed, explains why the stone from the coast was chosen by Osbaldeston: ‘the uneven surface of the stone, caused by the joint action of the sea and the sun, give the appearance of exquisite carving, and has really an admirable effect’.
There was some complaint about the use of the ‘pilfered’ stone, but the practice continued until the early 19th century, with Osbaldeston’s heirs accused of ‘stripping the headland’. Locals complained they didn’t even own the land, but merely drew on ‘ancient musty manorial rights’. By 1911 the authorities had ‘interfered’, and Filey Brigg was no longer used as a quarry. The lodge however remains standing as a monument to Osbaldeston, and as it was described over a century ago, a ‘beautiful relic of feudal days’.
Barbara Jones painted two watercolour views of the arch, one of which was included in the 1974 revised edition of her book Follies and Grottoes. The variant unpublished version is illustrated here.
Hunmanby Hall became a school in 1928, and was converted into apartments after the school closed in 1998. By that date the lodge had deteriorated, and a storm had brought down part of the structure, including the ammonite. It has since been converted into ‘Hunmanby Follies’, with a holiday cottage to each side of the arch.
For stays at Hunmanby Follies see http://www.hunmanbyfollies.co.uk