The English Folly

BookThe English Folly

The English Folly

The Edifice Complex

Historic England


June 24th, 2020

Access Token


Other Formats



If this were a novel, the tales of astounding wealth, sexual perversion, murder, munificence, rape, insanity, brutality, slavery, religious mania, selfishness, snobbery, charity, suicide, generosity, theft, madness, wickedness, failure and eccentricity which unfold in these pages would be too concentrated to allow for the willing suspension of disbelief. All these sins and virtues, and more, are displayed by the characters in this book, some exhibiting several of them simultaneously. Folly builders were not as we are. They never built what we now call follies. They built for beauty, utility, improvement; it is only we, struggling after them with our imperfect understanding, who dismiss their prodigious constructions as follies. Follies can be found around the world, but England is their spiritual home. Having written the definitive books on follies in Great Britain, Benelux and the USA, Headley & Meulenkamp have turned their attention to the folly builders themselves, people so blinded by fashion or driven by some nameless ideology that they expended great fortunes on making their point in brick, stone and flint. Most follies are simply misunderstood buildings, and this book studies the motives, characters, decisions and delusions of their builders. If there was madness in their building, fortunately there was no method in it.

'This riveting book investigates the motives, ideologies, characters and delusions behind this much-loved, but often misunderstood, genre of architecture.'Country Life, Book of the Week

‘This lively and chatty book tells the incredible stories behind these buildings. […] This book is more of a side order, great to dip into and full of enjoyable anecdotes that bring the history of these buildings to life.’
Kate Judge, Context

Author Information

Gwyn Headley is Publisher at Heritage Ebooks, Managing Director at fotoLibra and Co-founder of The Folly Fellowship. Wim Meulenkamp is President of The DonderbergGroup: Foundation for Follies, Garden Ornaments and the Architecture of Amusement.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
1. Bones of the ancients: druids, hermits and pharaohs17
2. Heaven’s Gate: arches, gateways, bridges and lodges42
3. Pavilions of splendour: hovels, cottages, pavilions and palaces58
4. Cloud-capp’d towers: towers, pinnacles and steeples74
5. Rooms with a view: gazebos and eyecatchers105
6. No love affair is complete without a grotto: grottoes, caves and tunnels124
7. Mantling ivy: shamruins and castles147
8. The genius of the place: folly groups and gardens160
9. Animal crackers: aviaries, deerfolds, dairies, dovecotes, pig palaces etc.182
10. We too: women and follies194
11. Remembrance of things past: mausolea, monuments, memorials and memories207
12. The poor man at the gate: scrap shacks and jardins imaginaires221
13. Golli-Gosperado: a miscellany of curiosities234