Dovecote, Folly, Grotto, Menagerie, Tower, West Yorkshire

Shaw Park Sham Castle, Halifax, West Yorkshire

In the 18th century the Shaw family of textile merchants operated out of the magnificent Piece Hall in Halifax (recently restored and very well worth a visit) https://www.thepiecehall.co.uk.  By the end of the century a new mill had been established at Holywell Green near Stainland, outside Halifax. It was greatly extended in the second half of the 19th century by Samuel Shaw, who also built a new family home nearby, which he called Brooklands. The house was almost ready for occupation in the autumn of 1868 and the grounds were being laid out at the same date. The landscaping included a pond with fountain and a series of 3 curious towers linked by a wall. The Halifax Courier described the scene in 1877, noting that the three towers gave ‘the impression that a castle of somewhat imposing dimensions’  overshadowed the grounds.

Fountain pond, castle facade and mansion at Brooklands, late 19th century, photographer unknown. Courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service Calderdale, SHA148/3.

As well as masking some farm buildings the towers functioned as summerhouses, housing two ‘rustic apartments’ with ‘quaint chairs’. The openings in the exterior walls were designed as roosts for wild birds, but Shaw probably didn’t have in mind the raucous crows who call the towers home today:

Shaw was passionate about birds and had a museum room in the mansion with cases of stuffed specimens. Within the grounds there were also extensive pens and cages to house a collection of pigeons and pheasants of ‘great rarity’.

Castle facade, aviaries and mansion at Brooklands, late 19th century, photographer unknown. Courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, SHA141/2.
Aviaries in the grounds of Brooklands, late 19th century, photographer unknown. Courtesy of West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, SHA141/1.

There was a also a grotto and a dripping well which was ‘deftly formed’ by the head gardener, a Mr Pybus. Water was fed to the well from a spring in the hillside, flowing over a perforated iron plate which created the dripping effect. Both the grotto and the well were clad with clinker, the incombustible matter left in the mill’s furnaces after burning.

Shaw did not allow smoking in the house but as a consummate host he constructed a Smoking House in the garden. Guests retiring here for pipes or cigars were asked to don velvet jackets and caps to absorb the smell, so that no trace could be detected when they returned to the drawing room. Sadly this building does not survive.

The mansion and many of the associated buildings at Brooklands were demolished in the 1930s and the Shaw family gave the grounds to the people of Elland for use as public park. The  wonderful castle facade survives, but for the usual reasons of vandalism and health and safety the buildings are now fenced-off.

The towers are listed grade II.

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