In 1954 Agatha Christie wrote a novella which was intended to raise money for her local church. Upon completion she was so taken with the story that she decided to develop it into a full novel, and submitted a different story to the fundraising effort. The work she had originally written was called Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly, and this work was expanded and eventually published in 1956 as Dead Man’s Folly.
In 1959 the inhabitants of Matching Green, east of Harlow in Essex, were horrified by the appearance of a 6 foot 3 inch statue of a naked lady in a village garden. The figure was the work of Horace Saville, the village blacksmith, and he claimed it was a model of how he wanted his future wife to look.
Barbara Jones is best known to readers of these pages as the author of Follies & Grottoes (1953, revised 1974), the first book to consider the subject of garden and landscape buildings in any detail. She also wrote books about popular art, erotic postcards and furniture amongst other subjects, and as an illustrator and designer her work appeared in magazines, on calendars, dustjackets, greetings telegrams and much, much more.
This unique structure, topped with a statue, stands close to Yeovil, in Somerset, one of a small group of curious constructions erected in Barwick Park. The folly was probably built by John Newman (1717-1799) in the middle of the 18th century, but by the early 20th century it had become know as ‘Jack the Treacle Eater’ and strange stories were told about Jack’s career and nocturnal activities.
In the 1850s John Tingey, a Norfolk merchant with a passion for agriculture, began to develop a small estate in the village of Little Ellingham near Attleborough, in Norfolk. Despite investing heavily in new buildings and technology, he was not the owner of the land, and claimed his vast complex of farm buildings was the largest range ‘ever erected by a tenant farmer in England’. But the practical Tingey wasn’t averse to a little bit of ornament, as this clock tower/cottage curiosity attests.
In a field close across the road from the principal entrance to Hodnet Hall in Shropshire are what appear to be the remains of a classical temple. Three Ionic columns are intact, two of which support a fragment of pediment, and a fourth pillar is in ruins. But whilst the columns are Georgian in date, this is not the ruin of an 18th century landscape ornament, for the eye-catcher was only erected in the 1960s.
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’.
In 1950 Barbara Jones sent this feline-themed Christmas card to her fortunate friends. Christmas Day was an auspicious date for the artist and writer, for it was also her birthday: Barbara Mildred Jones was born on 25 December 1912.
Such was the headline of an article in the Sussex County Magazine in 1937. The author, William A. Bagley, was fascinated by the ‘strange towers’ that could be found ‘dotted all over the hilltops of England’. Revisiting some of the follies he described some 85 years later the Folly Flâneuse discovered that the towers have had differing histories: one is lost, some survive in much the same state as when Bagley saw them, and one is currently on the market with a multi-million pound asking price.
In the middle of the 18th century, Viscount Bateman of Shobdon Court decided to remodel the Romanesque church on his estate. Demolishing all but the tower, he created an enchanting building with exquisite interiors in the fashionable gothick style. Although later accused of ‘wanton destruction’, Bateman did at least recognise the value of fragments of the earlier church, and had them re-erected as an eye-catcher at the end of an avenue in the park.