The Ruin, as it is called on the earliest OS maps, was built by Benjamin Ferrand and is inscribed with his initials and the year 1796. Also known as Ferrand’s Folly, or Harden Grange Folly, there is no explanation for why it later became known as St David’s Ruin.
The Ferrand family had two properties: St Ives, a house below Harden, and Harden Grange, an estate higher up across the valley, although confusingly they exchanged names in the middle of the 19th century. The Ruin was built as an eye-catcher on an outcrop of rock high up above the valley of the Harden Beck. The folly is now engulfed in woodland; but whilst it has lost its role as a distant object it is now very romantically situated in a small glade amongst pines.
‘The fast lock’d tower where ivy loves to creep,
Seems like the remains of some old Castle Keep’
So wrote the little-known Yorkshire poet Robert Carrick Wildon, in contemplative mood, at The Ruin in around 1850. His poem ‘Lines suggested while sitting at the Ruins’ was recently discovered and you can read it all here http://www.friendsofstives.org.uk/history/the_ruins.php
Old photos show the top of the tower with a rough sham-ruined finish and that is how it still looked in c.1950 when it was sketched by Barbara Jones for her book Follies and Grottoes. The top was rebuilt for safety reasons soon after her visit, as shown in the photo’ above. Thanks to Neil Jennings Fine Art for this image of her original sketch.
The ruin is one of a group of three very similar folly structures across Britain, the others being Mow Cop in Cheshire and Old John in Bradgate Park in Leicestershire.
The folly inspired Bingley librarian John Braine when he was writing Room at the Top, published in 1957. In the novel the hero climbs up to see the St Clair folly, which Braine described in 1969 as being created in his imagination as a mixture of St David’s Ruin and the monumental Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland.
Sadly, although an earlier version of this post stated that the folly could be accessed via a permissive footpath, this is not the case and the owner of the woods made contact to ask that it was made clear that they are strictly private.
For old images visit http://www.cottingleyconnect.org.uk/folly.shtml
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