As the nation settles into staying at home, forgoing a social life and, more practically, visits to the hairdresser and beauty salon, the Folly Flâneuse got to thinking about those fashionable landscape ornaments called hermitages, in which men (presumably women had more sense than to apply for the vacancy) lived in isolation. With ragged clothing, long fingernails, and unkempt beards, the hermits animated the landscape, whilst creating a little drama for the visitors who caught a (staged) glimpse of the recluse.
In the 1760s Sir Thomas Wentworth* (1726-1792) of Bretton Hall, near Wakefield, set about landscaping his park. Initially, he employed Richard Woods, a professional landscape designer, but soon decided he could manage just as well on his own. In the 1770s he added to his grand design without recourse to even the most eminent landscaper of the age: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. A second lake would, he told friends, be completed without the help of ‘Capability or any such pretending Rogues’.
The Folly Flâneuse has just enjoyed a weekend at Art Out Loud, the annual festival of talks by artists, curators, collectors and writers at Chatsworth. In between talks there was plenty of time to revisit the wonderful gardens and Capability Brown landscape, as well as the magnificent mansion, which is looking incredibly fine after a decade of restoration. Highlights included artist Ed Kluz talking with Kate Hubbard, whose new account of Bess of Hardwick’s building mania is just out. Bess, who lived at Chatsworth in the second half of the 16th century, was probably the driving force behind the construction of the Hunting Tower, or Stand, which dominates the hillside above the house and gardens.
Capability Brown drew up a plan for the landscape at Whitley Beaumont which was implemented by Richard Beaumont in the 1780s. The Monument was probably built as an eye-catcher from a new carriage drive, and existed by 1822 when it is shown on an estate map, but not named. It is marked as ‘The Monument’ on the 1850s ordnance survey map but no-one remembers why it was given this name, or what it might be a monument to.
Built of fragments of masonry, probably rescued from a remodelling of the hall, and embellished with battered statuary, this is a fabulous folly and was surely designed by the family themselves. It’s unlikely an eminent architect would wish to take the credit.
The monument fell into disrepair during the two world wars when the park was used for army training and mined for coal as part of the war effort. Today the fragments survive as a forlorn and overgrown pile of stones.
The park at Whitley Beaumont is strictly private.