A 1770s map of the Wentworth Woodhouse estate marks a building called ‘The Marchioness’s Summer House’. The noble lady in question was Mary Bright, wife of the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, twice Prime Minister of Great Britain. The summer house was situated on high ground in Tankersley Park which was home to a large herd of red deer.
Architect John Carr designed the building in 1763. He visited with one of his nieces in 1795 and she wrote that the views from the temple were ‘the most beautiful and extensive in the Kingdom’. The panorama included two other prominent eye-catchers on the Wentworth estate: the Hoober Stand and Keppel’s Column.
As the local ironstone mining industry encroached on the designed landscape in the 19th century, the building lost its raison d’être as a gazebo and ceased to be used by the family. The deer herd was moved closer to the mansion and the abandoned folly became a hangout for local youths. In 1864 five ‘lads in their teens’ were charged with trespassing and causing considerable damage to the ‘rural temple…known as the Lady’s Folly’. The temple was a focal point for local galas, and old photos show it decked in bunting, but its decline continued.
In the late 1950s an open-cast coal mine was opened close to the folly as the land had been requisitioned by the Ministry of Power under the legislation passed during the Second World War. The spoil was piled up almost to the base of the temple, and the foundations of the already crumbling structure were further weakened. By the time the Ministry announced it would ‘quit and give up possession’ in August 1960 the temple was in a parlous condition and it was demolished that same year.
Its site is marked by a stone which records
ON THIS SITE A SUMMER HOUSE OR
OBSERVATORY OF GRECIAN DESIGN WAS
ERECTED SOMETIME BETWEEN 1760-1770
BY DIRECTION OF THE 2ND MARQUIS
OF ROCKINGHAM FOR HIS WIFE MARY
FOR TWO CENTURIES THE LADIES FOLLY
AS IT WAS POPULARLY KNOWN WAS
AN OUTSTANDING LANDMARK AND VIEWPOINT
ERECTED CIRCA 1760
DEMOLISHED AS UNSAFE AND PAST RESTORATION
Ask for ‘Lady’s Folly’ today and you will be shown to Hole 3 on Tankersley Golf Course.