Report May 2015

Meeting Report 15th May 2015
At our May meeting in Kineton Village Hall a large gathering of Kineton and District Local History Group members enjoyed a well illustrated talk about architectural follies, given by Elizabeth Allison, assisted by her husband Robert. Elizabeth described some of the odd and fantastical buildings to be found in the British Isles, many of which they had visited. Some follies have been taken over by the Landmark Trust, and the enthusiastic Allisons had stayed in a selection of these.
Elizabeth gave us some possible definitions of a folly – a useless, or ornamental, or disguised or attractive structure. And we saw examples of all of these, drawn from a wide area, including of course our own Edgehill Tower and the Chesterton Windmill. We saw memorials to battles, to wives, to disasters, to national mourning, and to political ambition. Some buildings had deeply felt symbolic intentions, such as the 30 structures in Lord Cobham’s park at Stowe. Others are more frivolous, like Mad Jack Fuller’s mock spire built to win a bet in Surrey, and the Needle’s Eye built by the Duke of Rockingham near Rotherham so he could drive a cart through it for a wager. Attractiveness was high on the list when John Nash designed the Blaise Castle Estate near Bristol to give an almost Disney feel to a group of early 19th century workers’ cottages. Rivalry to build the highest towers led to some notable follies, and other towers have achieved international fame such as Perrett’s Tower and the Severn Trent Water Tower in south Birmingham which may have had a role in Tolkien’s vision of the Two Towers in the Lord of the Rings. Leaving the heights, grottos also featured in the list of follies, where instead of views and vertigo the visitors could shiver at the sight of river gods surrounded by shell and rock decorations and have water splashed over them.
Follies continue to be created, such as the Forbidden Corner in Yorkshire, and the award winning Kielder Belvedere in Northumberland. We even saw crenellations on a suburban garage. Elizabeth and Robert clearly enjoyed their own explorations of these weird buildings and conveyed this to our members, for which Brian Lewis thanked them, while denying that the Pittern Hill Windmill was in any way a folly. Discussions continued as usual over tea, coffee and biscuits.
Next month on the 12th June the group has an evening guided visit to Westcote Manor Farm on Edgehill which is on the site of one of Warwickshire’s many deserted medieval villages, still visible as humps and hollows in the surrounding fields.
DF 19.05.2015