Tucked in woods behind Cally House (now the Cally Palace Hotel) is an absolutely enchanting little gothic tower, known as The Temple. It was built in the late 18th century as an eyecatcher from the house, but is now surrounded by trees in a sequestered spot.
Cally House was designed by Robert Mylne for James Murray and built in the 1760s. Accounts show that the Temple was constructed in the last years of the 1780s, as a feature in the landscape around the new mansion. During the recent restoration, evidence was found that the tower had probably been lime-washed, thus enhancing its visibility from the house and from the walks and rides in the ornamental demesne. It is hard to imagine now, with the folly surrounded by trees, but old photographs show the view from the tower as an open landscape with clumps, specimen trees and a view to distant hills.
The pleasure grounds at Cally House were laid out by the architect-turned-landscape designer James Ramsay (died 1820), and the folly is attributed to him, although there is little evidence. A visitor in 1792 found the grounds ‘laid out and decorated with great taste’. His account shows that as well as ornamenting the park, the tower was earning its keep as a dwelling:
‘Within the extent of the pleasure-grounds is a house occupied by a farm-servant, which has been built in the fashion of a Gothic Temple, and to accidental observation has all the effect that might be produced by a genuine antique.’
That ‘farm- servant’ was William Todd, described by a descendant as the drover who looked after the estate’s black cattle. He lived in the tower from around 1782 to 1792, and brought up his family there in that period. Later the temple was said to have been home to ‘the person who had charge of the ornamental ground’.
In 1939 the Cally House estate was bought by the Forestry Commission, and in the 1930s the mansion (by now remodelled several times) opened as a hotel and was renamed the Cally Palace. The grounds became home to commercial plantations, and the southern third of the pleasure grounds was later cut off by the construction of the busy A75. The little temple slumbered on, dilapidated and roofless, but lost none of its charm, and in 2015 a restoration project was completed that saw it consolidated and secured for the future. The project was overseen by the Gatehouse Development Initiative, which worked with the Forestry Commission and a dedicated group of volunteers to secure funding. The architect for the project was Michael Leybourne, of Savills Dumfries office.
Few views of the Temple are known, so The Folly Flâneuse was delighted to find this illustration on the excellent Gatehouse Folk website (link below), especially as there is a seasonal connection. The folly featured on a Christmas card, sent in the middle of the last century by the then owner of the Cally Estate, Elizabeth Murray Usher (1903-1990), a descendant of James Murray. The drawing is signed ‘Hookway Cowles’, not a name that was familar, so some research was needed… Hookway Cowles (1896-1987) was born in Yorkshire and had a peripatetic childhood as the son of a clergyman. He studied art and became an illustrator, working with a number of publishing houses to design dust-jackets, and produce cover images for fashionable magazines. Most famously, he worked on an illustrated edition of the novels of H. Rider Haggard for Macmillan Books. How he came to draw local scenes for Scottish Christmas cards is unknown, but the Folly Flâneuse fears she has digressed enough for now.
The restored temple is cherished by the local community, and has been the focus of projects and events, including inspiring a volume of poetry, which you can see here https://issuu.com/hatterick/docs/temple_poetry_booklet_issuu
Many thanks to Margaret Wright for help with this post. For more on the history of Gatehouse of Fleet see the excellent website http://www.gatehouse-folk.org.uk
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