A surprisingly nasty history of follies

Taken from The English Folly

Gothick architecture sells tea towels and tickets by the charabanc-load. But behind the whimsy are some dark tales, says Gwyn Headley

England isn’t the only country in the world to be blessed with architectural follies, but it is the only place where the word “folly” isn’t seen as a pejorative. In fact it’s a tribute, as the English pride themselves on individuality and eccentricity.

In our new book, The English Folly, the Dutch art historian Wim Meulenkamp and I look at the type of people who erected these remarkable structures. And the news is: most of them weren’t very nice.

In today’s cancel culture, or presentism, people find it impossible to comprehend that someone living 250 years ago would not have exactly the same outlook on life as a 19-year-old student of today. Correct thinking demands they must therefore be expunged from history.

This is premium content. 

Only logged in subscribers have access to it.

Login or SUBSCRIBE to view this story

Gated access promo

Existing subscriber? LOGIN

A subscription to Building Design will provide:

  • Unlimited architecture news from around the UK
  • Reviews of the latest buildings from all corners of the world
  • Full access to all our online archives
  • PLUS you will receive a print copy of WA100 worth over £30 when it is published in December.

Subscribe now for unlimited access.

Alternatively REGISTER for free access on selected stories and sign up for email alerts