Folly

The ice house at Painshill Park

The ice house at
Painshill Park

A decorative building or structure often built as part of a landscaped park or estate of a country house. Sometimes these were specially designed by an architect to be used for entertainment, such as a place for picnics or as a hunting lodge, or just for decoration with no practical use at all. Follies were built throughout the Post-medieval period.

Follies could be anything within the architect’s imagination. They were ornamental and sometimes ostentatious with an eccentric appearance, such as looking like ruined castles, a Classical temple or a grotto. Follies often followed the fashion of the day, with ‘Chinese’ and ‘Egyptian’ forms being built in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Many follies are known from historic landscaped parks and gardens in Surrey. There was a ‘Chinese’ wooden pavilion at the lake at Virginia Water, Egham, as well as a 50 ton Mandarin yacht and a timber bridge built about 1750. Among the follies at the landscaped pleasure grounds at Busbridge Lakes, Godalming are two mock Roman Altars, and a Greek style temple of 18th century date.

At Albury Park, Guildford, there is a folly based on the grotto of Sejanus at Posilippo, with a tunnel 146m long through the hillside and a 17th century subterranean bathhouse.

There are also a number of follies at Painshill Park, Cobham, including the Turkish Tent and a ruined abbey.

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