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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 https://www.savebritainsheritage.org/publications/publications-in-print/3
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 http://www.thetempletrust.org.uk
Enville (private) https://envilleestate.com
Halswell (private) https://halswellpark.wordpress.com
Hardwick Park https://www.durham.gov.uk/hardwickpark
The Landmark Trust https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk
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