Keys to the Past

Glossary

Folly

A decorative building or structure often built as part of a landscaped park or estate of a country house. These may have been specially designed by an architect to fulfil an entertainment function, such as a place for picnics or as a hunting lodge, or commemorative or of no function - but entertainment itself as a flight of fancy. Follies could therefore be nonsense buildings - with rooms or staircases that might lead nowhere, or be built already as ruins. Sometimes they were added to - but again in deliberately ruined portions. (Compare with ferme ornee). Statues might be employed in niches of appropriate figures. A grotto is a further type of folly. Prehistoric standing stones and Roman materials could be acquired for display or re-created as a small folly, from local or exotic sites. A standing stone was taken from a near a barrow at Shaftoe for 'use' at Wallington, Northumberland.

These buildings could derive inspiration from Classical temples, or Medieval tower houses - though follow no style totally, sometimes as a pastiche of the original forms being called Gothick. Follies often followed the fashion of the day - 'Chinese' and 'Egyptian' forms being built in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries - though most northeast examples are of the Gothick type. There was a 'Chinese' wooden pavilion erected at Wallington - the (again false) style being called Chinoiserie - in the 18th century, but this rotted away, where only the Chinese pond remains. Many follies remain around country estates - there are two surviving clusters around Wallington and Alnwick of predominantly18th century date. There might also be legends about follies - such as secret tunnels, or how long things took to build. An example is Starlight Castle, Seaton Sluice, reputed to have been built over one night.
Folly

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