If you're looking for a totally unique property to call your home, a one-off building with a sense of character, history, and completely different from anything else around, it's time to find yourself a folly. Here's all you need to know.
By Sacha Markin
Defining a folly is easier said than done, but essentially it is a building built for the sheer fun of it, rather than for a particular purpose. You can discover a folly practically anywhere in the world, but they're especially abundant in the UK and they can be found in a variety of locations, in every shape and size possible.
They were built throughout history for a wide array of reasons - for decoration, to enhance the landscape, to celebrate an occasion, to provide a viewpoint, or just on a whim. They are usually in the grounds of an estate, built by those with wealth (and eccentricity), somewhat odd in design and construction and were often madly decorated. Some 18th and 19th century follies resembled temples, pyramids, abbeys, or symbolised aspects of different continents or historical eras. Some follies were built purely as eye-catchers, and range from the huge, tiny, funny, fantastic, utterly stunning, or just totally useless.
These often ignored buildings acquired their apt name because of what folly means - take the dictionary definition of a 'foolish action, practice, idea; and absurdity'. And as The Folly Fellowship - a charity that exists to celebrate these buildings' character, magnificence and history - states, 'The folly is to be found in a state of mind, rather than in an architectural style or function. If you believe a particular building to be a folly, then folly it is.' Without doubt, the most common form of a folly is a tower, but it's said that the Portmeirion village in North Wales (constructed between 1925 and 1975) is the most fantastic folly of them all - wild, imaginative and pretty pointless.
Many of the surviving follies from the past few centuries were built by the rich, but with much of the landed gentry and great stately country houses on the wane, folly building has been in rapid decline, and although a few follies are even still being built today, they're mostly smaller than their predecessors, and largely on private estates. Also planning laws have put a stop to a lot of folly ideas, meaning we're unlikely to see any more enormous hill top towers popping up throughout the countryside.
However these days when people look for quirky buildings with historic appeal to convert into unusual but distinctive homes, an increasing number of follies have been rescued from neglect and renovated into eye-catching houses. Renovating a folly and converting it into your home will be completely different from remodeling any other kind of building, but incredibly rewarding on completion of your incomparable, unique home!
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