Last week’s brief post on the sham Druid’s Temple, near Masham, was something of a preamble to The Folly Flâneuse sharing this wonderful letter written by Barbara Jones in 1949. Jones is, of course, the doyenne of folly-spotters, and in this missive she shares the ups and downs of researching for the first edition of Follies & Grottoes. It is a delight to read: camping at the Druid’s Temple, finding Hackfall, and best of all a run-in with the formidable Captain Fordyce, Agent to Lord Hothfield at Skipton Castle. Here’s the unadulterated letter in full:
‘The desire for knowledge and the love of mystery are two of the most powerful human impulses and Stonehenge satisfies both at once. That is why it has never lost its hold over our imagination or our curiosity’.
So wrote Rosemary Hill in her erudite and entertaining history of Britain’s most enigmatic ancient monument. If people were enthralled with this famous site in Wiltshire, how did they react when they found just such a monument in a quiet corner of Yorkshire?
A great stumbling block in the understanding of follies is the attempt to define what exactly one is. Must it be useless? Wildly expensive? Weird? One of my favourite summaries comes from Barbara Jones, the first person to study the genre in depth in Follies and Grottoes, published by Constable 65 years ago today
She wrote that a folly ‘is built for pleasure, and pleasure is personal, difficult to define.’