When the great folly builders of the 17th and 18th centuries were erecting statement buildings on the high points of their estates, they can little have known how useful they would be to the Board of Ordnance. The ‘Principal Triangulation of Britain’ was a trigonometric survey, begun in the late 18th century, which by determining precise coordinates of significant landmarks would enable highly accurate mapping. The main landmarks used were church spires, but ‘other remarkable objects’ were picked, and in the first decade of the 19th century over 50 towers, temples, obelisks, summer houses and follies made it into this category.
Brizlee Tower* stands high on Brizlee Hill, near Alnwick, and overlooks Hulne Park, a detached pleasure ground close to the Duke of Northumberland’s principal park at Alnwick Castle. It was built in the late 18th century as a prospect tower and eye-catcher, and also as an object to be visited on a drive from the castle through Hulne Park. The park was designed by ‘the inimitable Brown’, aka Capability, working with local engineers and designers, and was also home to the ruins of mediaeval Hulne Abbey, embellished and repurposed by the Duke and Duchess as a banqueting house, pleasure garden and menagerie for exotic pheasants.
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.
Built in the later 18th century, The Kennels were designed in the style of a sham castle, with a central room flanked by two squat towers. The building also served as an eye-catcher from the bridge over the River Ribble, although this latter function has been lost as trees now block the view. Sadly the castellations are also long gone, but the building appears to have a happier future ahead.
As the nation settles into staying at home, forgoing a social life and, more practically, visits to the hairdresser and beauty salon, the Folly Flâneuse got to thinking about those fashionable landscape ornaments called hermitages, in which men (presumably women had more sense than to apply for the vacancy) lived in isolation. With ragged clothing, long fingernails, and unkempt beards, the hermits animated the landscape, whilst creating a little drama for the visitors who caught a (staged) glimpse of the recluse.
The Folly Flâneuse is playing safe here with the locations of these two structures, as the inhabitants of the villages of Cowling and Sutton in Craven, south of Skipton, each claim a monument as their own. Locals are at least agreed on a nickname: for very obvious reasons the tower and pinnacle are known as the Salt and Pepper Pots.
Constructed early in the 19th century, this rocky grotto was built in the grounds of Ingleborough Hall, home to the Farrer family. Later it was a favoured spot of Elizabeth Farrer (1853-1937), and has thus became known by the wonderfully comforting name of Aunt Bessie’s Grotto. Here tea was served by the staff, whilst the family enjoyed the wonderful view to Thwaite Scars.
The weather has not been conducive to folly-spotting, so The Folly Flâneuse is looking back to a trip to the Mediterranean island of Malta, where this imposing monument to Sir Alexander John Ball can be found. Situated in the Lower Barraka Gardens, it was erected by public subscription to commemorate Ball’s role in governing a peaceful Malta in the first years of the 19th century.
William Constable, of Burton Constable in the East Riding of Yorkshire, died in 1791. A condition of his will was that his heir should rebuild the ‘family vault’, then found at nearby Halsham church. The new building was to be more than just a repository for the remains of generations of Constables, it was also intended as a bold statement of the importance of the ancient family, and an ornament to the estate.
Charles Back, of the Fairview winery, visited Portugal at the beginning of the 1980s to see how things were done there. Exploring the gardens of a winery, he was fascinated by a Goat Tower, and on his return he introduced the concept to South Africa.