Dated 1792 the temple in the park of Swinithwaite Hall was built as a banqueting house and belvedere to enjoy ‘the most strikingly beautiful and picturesque scenery of the valley and the whole range of its western mountains’. The valley in question is that of the river Ure, and the most dramatic feature of the vista was the ‘grand and majestic falls […] over the rocks of Aysgarth’, a view that is still partially intact today. The temple was a short ride away from the hall and set within its own miniature pleasure ground with ‘ornamental timber and shrubberies.’ A panel above the door shows a talbot, a breed of dog associated with hunting, suggesting that the temple may also have been used as a grandstand for watching the chase in the valley below.
It was built for the Anderson family of Swinithwaite, probably by John Foss of Richmond who worked on the house at around the same date. As one contemporary visitor wrote, it was considered a great extravagance, albeit a most stylish one:
‘The building of this elegant temple at the cost of £800 merely for the sake of enjoying the prospect more at ease or over a dish of tea was considered by all who knew him as highly imprudent in Mr A who had not an income of more than £1000 per annum. It was however an unequivocal mark of his taste.’
Hooray for imprudent folly builders!
Restored in the 1990s the temple is now a holiday let https://www.wensleydale-experience.com/Temple-Folly/About-the-Temple-Folly
This view is reproduced courtesy of the artist Ed Kluz who, like the folly flâneuse, is passionate about the ornamental structures that decorate our landscape. It featured in his solo show Ed Kluz: Sheer Folly – Fanciful Buildings of Britain at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 11 November 2017-25 February 2018