Writing in Tatler magazine in 1961 the writer, and champion of the British countryside, Ronald Blythe, questioned why follies were common in the countryside, but seldom found in the city. Long before the ‘concrete and glass’ that constituted the cities in Blythe’s mind, costly and extravagant ornamental structures could be found on the streets of the capital. These were the triumphal arches built to celebrate the coronation of a new monarch.
Exploring the tranquil ruins of Jervaulx Abbey, near Masham, ones eye is drawn up to a village on the skyline. Hazarding a guess at the location, The Folly Flâneuse arrived at the fascinating little hamlet of Thornton Steward.
The grounds of Kyre Park were laid out in the second half of the 18th century for the Pytts family. A roughly horseshoe string of ponds was created, with ornamental cascades and bridges, and this landscape formed the backdrop to pageants and garden parties in the Edwardian era. In 1930 the estate was sold, and a series of institutional tenants then occupied the house. In the 1980s the depressing phrases ‘semi-ruinous’ and ‘partially collapsed’ were used to describe a Hermit’s Cave and a tunnel. But by the end of the century Kyre Park had found its saviours…
Grimston Park was rebuilt by the Hon. Colonel Caradoc, later 2nd Baron Howden, from around 1839, transforming a ‘plain country house’ into a ‘splendid chateau’. New offices and estate buildings were also erected, including this ‘object tower’.
On Sunday, The Folly Flâneuse was one of the happy few who discovered the location of the Secret Salons, three venues which combined the finest music and architecture. As part of Richmond’s annual festival celebrating all things Georgian, the evening was a fundraiser for the town’s Theatre Royal, a unique intact survivor from that era. Participants promenaded between three lovely venues, but of course the one that gave the greatest joy to the present writer was the Culloden Tower.
In the first half of the 19th century villages and hamlets on the Lancashire coast, overlooking Morecambe Bay, grew rapidly as holiday destinations. The prosperous middle class of Manchester, and the surrounding manufacturing towns, was keen to escape the noise and dirt of urban life and took houses on the coast where the air was clear. Henry Paul Fleetwood, a prosperous Preston banker, saw the potential of Silverdale, north of Carnforth, and erected this tower on his estate there as a belvedere and summerhouse.
Squire White of Tattingstone Place in Suffolk wanted an eye-catcher to enrich the view from his mansion. Rather than start from scratch, he simply enlarged and embellished a couple of existing cottages, adding a tower and some gothic windows. He called his folly The Tattingstone Wonder, and the story goes that he declared that the local people were wont to wonder at nothing, so he would give them something to wonder at.
“It is a pleasant delusion to think that this is the last fragment of a noble baronial pile” wrote the author of a guide to Roundhay Park in 1872. It was, he explained, simply ‘an object of interest’, the creation of a gentleman of ‘good taste’: in short, a folly.
On recent sedate tours of Britain The Folly Flâneuse was intrigued to find two pairs of pavilions which had sadly lost their principal part. Near Towcester in Northamptonshire are the Palladian pavilions that once flanked a fine house. Meanwhile at Mistley in Essex the twin towers of a Robert Adam church have long since lost their linking nave. The surviving pairs are, however, far from forlorn and seem to be throughly enjoying their independence.
Bishopthorpe, a few miles outside York, has been home to the Archbishops of York for centuries. In the 1760s Archbishop Drummond added a new facade to the palace, constructed a gatehouse, and rebuilt the village church. His architect of choice was Thomas Atkinson, a respected designer but a curious choice as he was a Roman Catholic*. All three structures were built in a whimsical gothick style, much of the stone coming from the ancient former episcopal palace at Cawood, a few miles south. When first built the three buildings formed an ensemble around a small ornamental lake, sadly long since drained.