The Folly Flâneuse is beginning to feel festive after a visit to Harlow Carr in Harrogate. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Yorkshire garden is bathed in colour on selected evenings until the end of the year, and of course a highlight for this particular visitor was the beautifully lit Folly.
Harrogate’s Royal Spa Concert Rooms, which had been ‘sinking into dereliction for many years’, were demolished in 1939-40, just a little more than a century after they were built. Originally known as the Cheltenham Rooms, capitalising on that town’s reputation as a chic spa resort, the building was later renamed the Royal Spa Rooms. Harrogate Corporation did at least have the foresight to put the fine Doric columns and pediment that made up the building’s portico into storage, but it was some years before an alternative use was found. In 1961, the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, keen to preserve the masonry, presented it to the Northern Horticultural Society for incorporation into the expanding gardens which had been opened at Harlow Carr on the edge of Harrogate a decade earlier.
The directors of the garden initially intended that the entire portico would be rebuilt as a ‘Grecian Temple’. ‘After all’, the society’s magazine reported, ‘no ornamental garden of any pretensions should be without one.’ Seats were to be placed under the pediment ‘to give rest to the weary and joy to the lover of the classic Attic line embowered in a woodland setting’. After delays caused by minor issues such as planning permission, the columns were eventually set in place as an eye catcher at the end of a long vista in 1964, ‘and a beastly inconvenience it was to the staff trying to create a garden’ wrote a former Honorary Director of the gardens, in slightly less poetic mode.
Unfortunately putting up the columns proved more expensive and arduous than expected and a combination of lack of funds, and worries about the safety of erecting the pediment, meant that it was never added. But whilst there is no shelter, the colonnade perfectly fulfils its role as a garden feature. The masonry from the pediment seems eventually to have been used to build the retaining wall behind the columns.
In the late 1990s plans were announced to build a new Exhibition Centre in Harrogate and, controversially, it was suggested that the Harlow Carr columns be returned to the central Harrogate site to support a modern glass pediment. Cutting a long story short, replica columns were used and Harlow Carr got to keep its folly.
Harlow Carr is not the only garden to make use of recycled columns. To pick just two of many potential examples – the feature known locally as ‘Matthew, Mark, Luke and John’ in Barnsley’s Locke Park (above) began life as part of the Post Office and was moved to Locke Park in 1879.
And in Manchester’s Heaton Park a considerably more ambitious relocation of part of the redundant early 19th century Town Hall was erected in 1912. Sadly it is now in need of stabilisation and has been fenced off for a number of years.
Glow at Harlow Carr can be seen on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until 28 December 2019. The Folly can be viewed across the gardens, but for health and safety reasons can not be visited during the illuminations. It is however freely accessible during normal opening hours. Full details here https://www.rhs.org.uk/gardens/harlow-carr/whats-on/glow-winter-illuminations
Locke Park and Heaton Park are public parks and can be visited during daylight hours.
Thanks to the Curious Confidante (and beautifully coiffed daughter) for alerting me to this event, and for their cheerful company. And to Bettys for the excellent, and very welcome on a chilly evening, coffee.