Saturday, March 24, 2018

Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

Tall tales

There is a tendency to label buildings like this ‘follies’. It’s a Gothic tower, but it’s pretty clear that it’s not part of a medieval castle – those pointed windows are not the kind of openings you’d see on a castle, nor are the little trefoil decorations, nor the very neat quoins. The Y-tracery of the windows is a typical device of Georgian or Regency Gothic-on-the-cheap – you get a ‘Gothic’ effect without spending too much time or money on elaborate carved tracery. So, we conclude, it’s the work of a Regency gentleman having a bit of fun.

And so it was. This is Enoch’s Tower, built by a Mr Enoch in 1828, as a carved date stone on the front tells us. But it’s a bit more than this, and labelling it as a folly is only part of the story. Richard Enoch (1771–1856) was said to have been in royal service and moved to Stow in the early-19th century. He was a collector, especially of Egyptological items, and had a house nearby. He built the tower to house his collection of antiquities – it was, in fact, a museum. The collection, alas, has vanished, and no one seems to know what was in it. There was a story that a cedar of Lebanon  nearby was grown from a seed found in an Egyptian sarcophagus, but that may be a legend – as, almost certainly, is the story that there was an underground passage linking the tower with Enoch’s house. Another story relates that Enoch planned to build a matching tower on the other side of the road and link the two by building a triumphal arch across the highway. That too sounds like a tall story – and conjures up in the mind’s eye an interesting clash of architectural styles. But as I read these stories I am starting to like Mr Enoch, and I imagine that he was not above spinning some of the yarns himself. Battlements, Y-tracery, little trefoils, interesting tall tales. Perhaps folly is not too far off the mark after all.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

According to a standard book on follies - I forget the title and author - a folly has to have no practical use. A tower built as a museum would therefore not be a folly! but most so-called follies seem to waver between the useless and the useful. I know that in an unseasonable snow fall when I visited the folly tower at Mow Cop some years ago, the walls provided a very useful practical purpose - in sheltering me! Did it for those ten minutes therefore cease to be a folly?? Perhaps the folly was in me going there in that weather - but it WAS the 2nd of June!