architecture, Folly, garden history, landscape

Pavilions in Peril part I: Pavilions Preserved

In 1987 Save Britain’s Heritage (SAVE), the charity which campaigns to save historic buildings from needless destruction, published Pavilions in Peril, a report which considered the great number of garden buildings in Britain that faced an uncertain future. Author Julia Abel Smith researched 54 case studies, including a number of groups of follies, across England, Wales and Scotland. The Folly Flâneuse recently revisited the report, and was delighted to find so many buildings had been rescued.

The Folly Flâneuse’s well-thumbed copy of Pavilions in Peril, featuring The Chateau at Gate Burton in a dilapidated state.
The Chateau at Gate Burton. Restored by the Landmark Trust, it was included in the report as an exemplary restoration and reuse of a garden building.

Some of the greatest restoration projects have been thanks to the work of the Landmark Trust, the charity that rescues important buildings that would otherwise be lost, and makes them available for holidays. Indeed their pioneering role in this field was acknowledged in the book, which featured before and after views of The Chateau at Gate Burton, Lincolnshire, on the front and back covers. The Chateau’s restoration was completed in 1984 and two further buildings featured in Pavilions in Peril have been saved since 1987: Mowbray Point at Hackfall in North Yorkshire and Robin Hood’s Hut at Halswell House in Somerset.

The banqueting house at Mowbray Point before restoration. Photo courtesy of Alison Brayshaw.
The Ruin aka Mowbray Point, as restored by the Landmark Trust

Mowbray Point, now called The Ruin, was a derelict shell when the Landmark Trust began work to transform it in the first years of the 21st century. Hackfall is a detached pleasure ground, created by the Aislabies of Studley Royal in the middle of the 18th century. The other follies in the woodland  have also been restored thanks to the work of the Hackfall Trust and the Woodland Trust, amongst others, and there is full public access.

Robin Hood’s Hut in 1982. Photo courtesy of Gwyn Headley.
Robin Hood’s Hut after restoration by The Landmark Trust. Photo © John Miller.

In Somerset, Halswell House is also home to a group of follies. As Pavilions in Peril went to press in 1987 it was announced that grants had been offered to help secure the future of the fanciful cottage called Robin Hood’s Hut, which was in such a ‘deplorable condition’ that it had been delisted, and other structures on the estate. The Somerset Buildings Preservation Trust restored the Ionic Temple, also known as the Temple of Harmony, in 1996, and then began work on the absolutely lovely Robin Hood’s Hut. In 2002 the Landmark Trust began work to fit out the interior as a holiday let, thus securing the building’s future.

The Shell House minus verandah and windows before restoration. Photo by Suzannah Fleming courtesy of The Temple Trust.
The building resplendent post restoration. Photo by Roger Clive-Powell courtesy of The Temple Trust.

At Cilwendeg in Pembrokeshire, Wales, The Temple Trust, which is dedicated to saving garden buildings, has restored the 1820s Shell House. Pavilions in Peril was able to report that this ‘little charmer’ had escaped the attention of vandals, but the building was deteriorating, and there was a threat from falling trees. The Temple Trust (alerted to the need to save garden buildings in part by the SAVE report) acquired the building in 2003, and carried out a full restoration which included replacing the pretty timber verandah and the long-lost coloured glass windows. Blott Kerr-Wilson restored the intricate shell-work interior to its former glory, and the Shell House is now open on designated days each year.

The Museum in 1952, photo courtesy of a private collection.
The Museum at Enville after restoration. Photo courtesy of Alan Terrill.

At Enville Hall, in Staffordshire, the owners have restored a number of garden buildings on their private estate. In 1987 the gorgeous gothick Museum was described as in ‘dire condition’, with the roof caved in and the windows gone. Originally built in 1750 as a greenhouse, it later served as a billiard room and a summerhouse, and then in the 19th century it housed a natural history collection, hence its present name. The exterior was beautifully restored soon after the report was published.

The Temple of Minerva at Hardwick Park in 1949, deteriorating after the roof was stripped and the columns damaged. Photo from the Northern Daily Mail courtesy of Michael Rudd.
In 2001 only the central cella was left standing, and the damaged columns lay in the undergrowth. Photo courtesy of Michael Rudd.
The magnificent Temple of Minerva post restoration. Photo courtesy of Andrew Clarey.

Three cheers too for the work of local authorities. In Durham the County Council worked with the Friends of Hardwick Park to save the wonderful 18th century landscape, which had fallen into a really sad state. Thanks to a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the landscape has been restored, important garden structures have been repaired, and the scant remains of others have been consolidated and interpreted. The work was completed in 2010, and visitors can now appreciate the park as Georgian visitors to John Burdon’s estate would have done. Most dramatic of all is the recreation of the fabulous domed Temple of Minerva, designed by architect James Paine. Although largely derelict the columns and most of the materials survived scattered around the central core, enabling rebuilding to take place.

There is not space here to mention all of the buildings that have been saved. Pavilions in Peril is still in print at the absolute bargain price of £5, so if you don’t already have a copy The Folly Flâneuse suggests you buy one, and explore for yourself. You can order the book and read more about SAVE’s work here

At the time of writing houses and gardens are still adapting opening hours in line with government guidance. Please check websites for further information.

Cilwendeg Shell House

Enville (private)


Halswell (private)

Hardwick Park

The Landmark Trust

To comment on this post, please scroll down to the comments box at the bottom of the page. Thank you for reading.

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11 thoughts on “Pavilions in Peril part I: Pavilions Preserved”

  1. Susan Kellerman says:

    I heard that the Ruin at Hackfall was vandalised a few weeks back. I believe the blue and white crockery was stolen – but I have no further details. Perhaps someone can supply more info.

    1. Editor says:

      I don’t know anything about this I’m afraid -but see my reply to Garance’s comment.

  2. Garance says:

    Excellent picture research as always.

    Thanks to Alison for the image of Mowbray Point in a most ruinous state. With the Landmark Trust there are Ruins and ruins. Sadly some are targets for anti social behaviour if not in use, but rest assured they will be put back in good order for the enjoyment of their temporary residents, who are again able share them for brief moments in time.

    1. Editor says:

      Thank you Garance, it’s nice to have my hard work recognised! Susan’s comment is disturbing news, but I’m sure you are right and the Landmark Trust will soon have everything ship-shape again.

  3. Gand and Norma says:

    Excellent article. Already anticipating part 2.
    In the words of Led Zeppelin, ramble on.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello both and thanks for the lovely comment. Had to google the Led Zeppelin lyrics though, have never been a prog rocker!

  4. Sue Bourne says:

    Wow, why wasn’t I called Blott Kerr Wilson instead of plain Sue . . . and I do collect shells from Guernsey every year . . .

    1. Editor says:

      I must come and see your collection soon!

  5. Julia Abel Smith says:

    For some unknown reason I have only just seen this post but what a great record it is! Thank you for highlighting the successes.

    Pavilions in Peril was a lovely project, although at times truly depressing. By their very nature these are often the most fragile buildings but your photographs give hope to every one still at risk. The Landmark Trust does a magnificent job and the Dairy at Cobham is just the most recent in their long list of restorations.

    I fear for the Umbrello at Great Saxham – long may it escape the attentions of vandals. It is extraordinary however, that only two pavilions have completely disappeared since 1986.

    Very best wishes.

  6. Editor says:

    Hello Julia.. I can see why the Pavilions in Peril project was distressing at times, but I am so glad that SAVE commissioned this project. Your excellent research was directly responsible for saving many structures, and bringing the plight of others to a wider audience. Whilst there have been sad losses, the success stories fill me with hope.

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