In 1920 the Yorkshire Post published a letter about a mysterious cave, or grotto, at West Nab on moorland above Meltham on the western edge of Yorkshire. The correspondent believed the structure had been built around 1500 years earlier as the dwelling of the pagan god Baal – hence it’s being known as ‘Bellman’s Castle’.
Recently opened at The Scottish Gallery, in Edinburgh’s handsome New Town, is Place Makers, a new show featuring the work of artists Ed Kluz and Vicki Ambery-Smith.
A great stumbling block in the understanding of follies is the attempt to define what exactly one is. Must it be useless? Wildly expensive? Weird? One of my favourite summaries comes from Barbara Jones, the first person to study the genre in depth in Follies and Grottoes, published by Constable 65 years ago today
She wrote that a folly ‘is built for pleasure, and pleasure is personal, difficult to define.’
Badger Dingle, north east of Bridgnorth in Shropshire, was created by Isaac Hawkins Browne in the 1780s and ‘90s. He constructed a new mansion, Badger Hall (demolished 1950s), to the designs of James Wyatt whilst at the same time employing William Emes, and probably his associate John Webb, to create a pleasure ground. Lakes were created in the valley bottom and a circuit walk took visitors through the ‘ornamented cultivated side’ of the valley, which looked across to the ‘purely sylvan’ scene of the opposite bank. An early account describes a picturesque scene of alpine planting and colourful shrubs.
The Folly Flâneuse has just enjoyed a weekend at Art Out Loud, the annual festival of talks by artists, curators, collectors and writers at Chatsworth. In between talks there was plenty of time to revisit the wonderful gardens and Capability Brown landscape, as well as the magnificent mansion, which is looking incredibly fine after a decade of restoration. Highlights included artist Ed Kluz talking with Kate Hubbard, whose new account of Bess of Hardwick’s building mania is just out. Bess, who lived at Chatsworth in the second half of the 16th century, was probably the driving force behind the construction of the Hunting Tower, or Stand, which dominates the hillside above the house and gardens.
Some great news. A joint statement from Barnsley Council, the National Trust and the Northern College was issued early this morning announcing that the future of Wentworth Castle now ‘looks more secure’. The three bodies have been in discussion since the site closed in April 2017, and now plan on ‘working collaboratively’ towards a reopening in 2019. Wentworth Castle is the only Grade I listed Park in South Yorkshire and has an outstanding collection of follies and landscape buildings, including Stainborough Castle pictured here. The house (which houses the Northern College and is not currently open to the public), the gardens and the landscape buildings were restored at great cost, largely thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, to secure their future. This new alliance must build on that work to ensure that Wentworth is enjoyed by the people of South Yorkshire and beyond.
The full press release is here:
The Folly Flâneuse can’t take the credit for this wonderful photograph but she can encourage you to get to Studley Royal before 4 November to see Folly!18, a collection of new follies dotted around the estate and complementing the Aislabie family’s 18th century towers, tunnels and grots. This is Polly by architect Charles Holland, a tongue-in-beak tribute to the Georgian mania for housing exotic birds within a landscape garden
Having fallen in to serious disrepair, the Hermitage at Kedleston was restored by the National Trust in 2016. The project was made more difficult because a large, and very lovely, plane tree has established itself alongside the building, which also makes (non-professional) photography something of a challenge.
‘The fast lock’d tower where ivy loves to creep,
Seems like the remains of some old Castle Keep’
So wrote the little-known Yorkshire poet Robert Carrick Wildon, in contemplative mood, at The Ruin in around 1850. His poem ‘Lines suggested while sitting at the Ruins’ was recently discovered and you can read it all here http://www.friendsofstives.org.uk/history/the_ruins.php
The Ruin, as it is called on the earliest OS maps, was built by Benjamin Ferrand and is inscribed with his initials and the year 1796. Also known as Ferrand’s Folly, or Harden Grange Folly, there is no explanation for why it later became known as St David’s Ruin.
Capability Brown drew up a plan for the landscape at Whitley Beaumont which was implemented by Richard Beaumont in the 1780s. The Monument was probably built as an eye-catcher from a new carriage drive, and existed by 1822 when it is shown on an estate map, but not named. It is marked as ‘The Monument’ on the 1850s ordnance survey map but no-one remembers why it was given this name, or what it might be a monument to.
Built of fragments of masonry, probably rescued from a remodelling of the hall, and embellished with battered statuary, this is a fabulous folly and was surely designed by the family themselves. It’s unlikely an eminent architect would wish to take the credit.
The monument fell into disrepair during the two world wars when the park was used for army training and mined for coal as part of the war effort. Today the fragments survive as a forlorn and overgrown pile of stones.
The park at Whitley Beaumont is strictly private.