Follies of England
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Follies of England

British follies, English follies, towers, eccentrics, the Wiliamson Tunnels, Triangular Lodge, sway Tower, Penshaw monumentOld John, freston Tower, Flounders Folly, Broadway Tower, Follies of England,

If you look up the word folly in a dictionary, the explanation you will see will read something like this, -  lack of sense, a foolish act or idea, an extravagance or fancy of no practical purpose.

Well that just about sums up most of the structures you are going to see further down this article.

Fanciful or extravagant buildings of no practical use, built by the upper classes, all of whom suffered from an age old condition referred to by the lower and working classes as - too much time, money and sense.

The British countryside is full of them, they are a regular part of the landscape, with many of them mini works of art that are situated in the most beautiful countryside.

There are way too many for me to list all of them, but I have found eight that I consider to be the best of what is a very eccentric and unusual part of the British culture and it's history. 



Broadway Tower is a 55 foot tall tower that stands atop a 1,024 foot high hill in Worcestershire. The tower was designed by James Wyatt in 1794 for a certain Lady Coventry, who had a whim to see if she could see a lighted beacon shining from the top of the hill from her home in the city of Worcester 22 miles away.

So she had the folly built to find out if she could....... and yes she could. 



This particular tower was commissioned by Benjamin Flounders in 1838 to celebrate his 70th birthday, his three score years and ten, no mean feat in that day and age, good one Benjamin.  



Rumour has it that this six storey red brick tower was originally built by Lord de Freston in the 15th century for his daughter Ellen, so as she could study a different subject on a different floor on every day for her six days a week of schooling.

OK, now for the real deal, originally built as a lookout tower by gentleman farmer Edmund Latymer in order to look out for rogues and vagabonds making their way along the nearby River Orwell in order to do some raping and pillaging of local folk.

During the 1700's the tower was apparantly a smallpox hospital , then it was left to decay until 1999 when it was rescued by The Landmark Trust and restored as a holiday let in order to make a much needed income for this very worthwhile charity.



Well at least this one had a purpose in life.

Built by the Grey family of Groby in 1784, this tower was built on top of a high mound in Bradgate Park, in order that the ladies of the house could watch horse racing at a former race course that used to run around the perimeter of the park.



No, you're not looking at the wrong picture here, it is'nt the Acropolis in Greece, it's the Penshaw Monument in sunny Sunderland, built in 1844 by Charles Vane and dedicated to his friend John George Lampton, who went on to become her majesty's first governor general of Canada in 1838.                                                                                          


Built in 1879 by Judge Andrew Turton Peterson, it is rumoured it was originally intended as a mausoleum, which had a continually burning light at it's top.( burning for whom we know not )

However, Trinity House ( Boss of all English lighhouses) would not allow the light to shine as it was apparantly confusing shipping on the nearby Solent riverway.

Rumours aside, this magestic tower has the great honour of being the world's tallest, non re - enforced, all concrete structure.

Judge Peterson 1. Trinity House 0.



This ornate, triangular construction was built between 1593 and 1597 by Sir Thomas Thresham as a protestation of his Christian beliefs, after having spent the previous 15 years incarcerated because of them. The monument is a testament to the number three and the Holy Trinity. 

This is one hell of a way to stick your two fingers up at convention, good on ya Sir Thomas. 



From 1800 to 1840 local Liverpool business man Joseph Williamson ( pictured above)  excavated a labyrinth of underground tunnels that stretched for miles around the Edge Hill area of the city of Liverpool.

When these tunnels were unearthed in 1995 by the local authority, they were found to be full of rubbish, yes that's right, rubbish.

No one knows exactly why Williamson decided to build these tunnels, or why he decided to fill them full of rubbish, maybe he saw his self as a one man crusade to tidy up the streets of Liverpool, or maybe he built them just because he could.

Or maybe the story is all a load of rubbish.

Never the less,today the tunnels are looked after by a tunnel trust which has opened them up to the public, turning the tunnels into a popular attraction for visitors to Liverpool.

NB; Title picture, Mow Cop, Cheshire.




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Comments (14)

Excellent work, DeeBee. This is my kind of article! Follies like these are important within the history of taste as they allowed architects and patrons to experiment with a range of different styles. The Gothic Revival grew out of buildings like these. I don't regard Penshaw Monument as a folly, as it had a serious political purpose, but I completely understand why you've included it. It was designed by John and Benjamin Green.

That was me above.

Ranked #1 in Europe

I knew it was you, only you know these kind of details, thanks for the info, I'll include it if you dont mind. Thanks for the votes.

Excellent article, I enjoyed the images.

I think I like Broadway Tower the most, apart from Penshaw.

Ab fab Dee! I have driven past Penshaw monument in Sunderland even though I have not been near it!

Ranked #1 in Europe

@ Ngozi, I have'nt seen that one, it is rather impressive, but I have seen Mowcop, just down the road from me, and Broadway tower and Flounders folly. @ Michael, my favourite is Penshaw, that must look stuuning in the English countryside.

It does look great from a distance and local people use it as a landmark. You always know you're near home when you see Penshaw Monument. It's pronounced Pensher around here. Even better is to climb up the hill and stand inside the monument. You can see all the way from the sea to Durham. One of the columns has a metal door in it which leads to a walkway around the very top of the monument, but no one is allowed up there these days.

Very enjoyable article. You have picked up on landmarks that most people drive by daily, not giving any thought to their ludicrous history.

Ranked #5 in Europe

Great article and real interesting info.

I think Williamson was setting us up for the first land fill site! They didn't have much to spend money on so I think these structures are a great legacy for us all to enjoy! I also love all the mini gate houses that border the edge of the bigger estates, we have quite a few round where I live and I would love to be able to afford to buy one.

Brilliant write as always, Deebee.

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@ Ron, thankyou , glad you liked our curiosities.

Ranked #1 in Europe

@ Lisa OMG, I totally agree, there is one near me, it is like Hansel and Gretel's gingerbread house, it is rented out for, wait for it, £ 900 a month, but I want it !!!