Follies - buildings without a practical purpose, dot the English landscape like mushrooms - testament to a delightful English eccentricity.
Follies in the English Landscape
BY DAVID ROSS, EDITOR
If ever an architectural feature expressed an aspect of national character in tangible terms, the English love of that peculiarity we call a "folly" does so. Just for the purpose of definition let us call a folly an architectural construction which isn't what it appears to be. Although most of the buildings we now call follies are a part of English garden and landscape design, a folly need not be part of a garden.
And there we have a perfect example of what is behind many, though certainly not all, follies - a symbolic statement. Many follies are constructed as tangible symbols for certain ideas or ideals.
At Stowe, Lord Cobham built the Temple of Ancient Virtue in classical style, then matched it with a purpose-built ruin, the Temple of Modern Virtue, to emphasize his strong philosophic and political leanings. To the educated classes of the day, such subtle symbolism as an intentional ruin of modern virtue would not be lost.
The Sham Castle at Bath only partly deserves the tag "folly" - it was built to experiment with an architectural principle later used on the owner's house.
The passion for extravagant follies dwindled as the 18th century waned, but it can never be said that it died out entirely. Some might claim that the humble garden gnome or pink flamingo is merely a small-scale folly. And certainly, the English love of the peculiar, the eccentric statement of individuality, lives on.
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This Day in British History
01 October, 1163
Council of Westminster, Henry II claims power to punish criminal clerics
Henry's former ally, Thomas Becket, leads a clerical revolt against Henry's power-grab