Although these pages usually explore ‘folly’ in the sense of an ornamental, quirky, or extravagant building, the word has of course another definition: what the Oxford English Dictionary describes as ‘foolishness or deficiency in understanding; lack of good sense’. Such was the ethos of the short-lived Bank Of Folly, established and closed down within a day.
Haughmond Castle, Uffington, Shropshire
Sundorne House in Shropshire was the seat of the Corbet family and the estate included the picturesque ruin of Haughmond Abbey. In 1774 John Corbet added a dramatic eye-catcher to the ensemble – a sham castle on the summit of Haughmond Hill.
The Arches, Sawley, Lancashire
Sawley (or Salley) Abbey was established by monks from Newminster Abbey in Northumberland at the beginning of the 12th century. It stood not far from the river Ribble in what was the West Riding of Yorkshire until the 20th century county boundary changes gave it to Lancashire. Little of the abbey remains today, but at the entrance to an adjoining field there is a curious gateway with a fascinating history.
The Spectacle, Boughton Park, Northamptonshire
William Wentworth, 2nd Earl of Strafford (1722-1791) had his principal seat at Wentworth Castle near Barnsley in Yorkshire, and Boughton in Northamptonshire was where he broke the journey to the social and political hub of London. Both estates were embellished with temples, sham churches and castles, obelisks and archways, including this castellated curiosity at Boughton.
Sir Christopher Wren
Sir Christopher Wren died 300 years ago on 8 March 1723. The Folly Flâneuse thought she would mark the anniversary by looking at a two examples of his work that served as garden ornaments – once surplus to their original requirements.
From Crystal Palace to Crystal Pinnacle: an ambitious idea.
Although initially mocked in some quarters as Prince Albert’s ‘folly’, the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park was a triumph. But the agreement had always been that the great glass gallery, which had become known as the ‘Crystal Palace’, would be removed after the fair was over, and the parkland setting then restored. But as the Earl of Carlisle wrote when that time approached, ‘the destruction of the Crystal Palace would be as perverse and senseless an act of vandalism as could be perpetuated’. Moving the building to an ‘open and accessible spot’ outside the city seemed the most sensible solution, but one man had other ideas…
McCaig’s Folly, Oban, Argyll
In the last years of the 19th century John Stuart McCaig decided to erect a monument on a hill overlooking Oban. Whilst a pillar of the local community, McCaig did not choose a column or obelisk, but instead a colossal circular wall, pierced with gothic windows, giving magnificent views of the harbour and out to sea.
Monumenta Romana and the Belvedere, Waldershare, Kent
In the 1720s Sir Robert and Lady Furnese erected a vast garden building at Waldershare Park, their seat in Kent, which became known as the Belvedere. 300 years later a diminutive structure, the Monumenta Romana, has appeared in its shadow
Holly Hill Tower, Hernhill, Kent
Deep in woodland on Holly Hill, near the village of Hernhill in Kent, stands a bedraggled belvedere. It was built by Edwyn Sandys Dawes sometime in the late 19th century, as a prospect tower with a ‘view unsurpassed in the county’.
The Summerhouse, North Seaton Hall, Northumberland
North Seaton Hall stood in the hamlet of the same name, just inland from Newbiggin by the Sea on the Northumberland coast. The house and ancillary buildings were demolished in the 1960s, and the land developed for housing: only the road called ‘Summerhouse Lane’ gives a clue to a fascinating feature which once ornamented the grounds.