On the banks of the river Orwell in Suffolk there once stood a lofty obelisk. It proclaimed to all the filial piety of Charles Berners, who erected it in 1793 in memory of his father, William. At 96 feet tall, and topped with a golden sun, it was a prominent landmark but sadly it came to a sorry end when it was damaged by fire and then demolished in the middle of the 20th century. But as the image above shows, fragments were salvaged and survive today.
In the middle of the 20th century books featuring the adventures of the Lockett children captured the imaginations of young readers. One title in particular appealed to the Folly Flâneuse: what ghastly goings-on could have taken place at the ‘half completed and abandoned tower’ known as Steeple Folly? And which real clifftop folly might have been the inspiration for it?
In 1771 the agriculturalist and country house afficionado Arthur Young visited Halswell in Somerset. He admired the house, but admitted that what ‘chiefly attracts the attention of strangers, are the decorated grounds’. Sir Charles Kemeys Tynte (1710-1785) ornamented his park with temples, rustic shelters and elegant bridges, all of which fell into disrepair, or disappeared completely, after the Second World War. Happily, recent years have seen a major programme of restoration, which continues apace.
With St Valentine’s Day approaching, the Folly Flâneuse wondered which were the most romantic garden buildings. The most famous expression of love in an architectural form is surely the Taj Mahal, built by Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favourite wife. But closer to home are three equally enchanting buildings built as monuments to lost loves – two real, and one imaginary, and each likened to the marble mausoleum in India.
A building that needs little, if any, introduction: the ne plus ultra of follies. But one that continues to perplex, as no architect has ever been identified for this the most ornate and glorious of garden buildings, erected in 1761 for Lord Dunmore. Very few early accounts can be found, but in 1768 a visitor wrote of emerging from woodland to find a pleasure house of which the ‘top part is built exactly in the form of a pineapple’.
The flanking walls supported glasshouses, and were heated to enable the growing of fruit – including pineapples, presumably. Adjacent to the ‘beautiful Pine-apple Summer house’ were four lodging rooms for the gardeners. A visitor in 1783 described the ‘Pine-apple Cupola’ as ‘highly gilded’, so it must have been a breathtaking and unique experience to see it in that period.
The Pineapple centrepiece is now leased by the Landmark Trust and provides lodging rooms for holidaymakers. The grounds and walled garden belong to the National Trust for Scotland, and are in need of a little love and attention when funds are available.
A brief post this week as the Folly Flâneuse is taking a week off to catch up after a Scottish sojourn (so expect more delights from that trip) and will then be heading off once again in pursuit of pavilions and on the trail of towers. Thank you for reading.
For stays in the Pineapple see https://www.landmarktrust.org.uk/search-and-book/properties/pineapple-10726/#Overview
‘An ill-treated folly’, wrote folly supremo Barbara Jones of the Carnaby Temple in 1953. The late 18th century landscape ornament, on high land above Boynton Hall, was by then disused and dilapidated, but remarkably intact considering the years of neglect. And so it remains.
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.
This weekend the country celebrates the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Thinking of the events of 1939-45, the Folly Flâneuse was reminded of a wartime project to document the changing rural and urban face of Britain. At a time when the future seemed uncertain, ‘Recording Britain’ commissioned artists to portray the country as it then was, creating a visual history for future generations.
Studley Royal, near Ripon, stays comfortably in the upper reaches of the list of most-visited National Trust properties, helped by the fact that the landscape garden features that epitome of eye-catchers, Fountains Abbey. But only a few miles away from Studley’s shops and scones is Hackfall, a tranquil vale* which is sublime, romantic and wild – and totally devoid of facilities. Both were created in the 18th century by the Aislabie family of Studley.
On Sunday, The Folly Flâneuse was one of the happy few who discovered the location of the Secret Salons, three venues which combined the finest music and architecture. As part of Richmond’s annual festival celebrating all things Georgian, the evening was a fundraiser for the town’s Theatre Royal, a unique intact survivor from that era. Participants promenaded between three lovely venues, but of course the one that gave the greatest joy to the present writer was the Culloden Tower.