Last edited 11 Jul 2021


Hodson’s Folly was built in 1887 by John Hodson so that he could keep a watchful eye on his daughters bathing in the river while overseeing his nearby fish hatchery. The land used was common land which Hodson, who was at one point a butler’s assistant at Pembroke College, had annexed without permission. As a speculative builder, Hodson excelled: his building sports a coat of arms, showing a swan in a rain storm, and the summer house and its garden are in many ways a Cambridge college in miniature. (From the University of Cambridge website.)

In architecture, a folly is typically a costly building that has been constructed for no specific purpose, or for which the original purpose has become obsolete or obscured over time. Its primary function is decorative, although it is sometimes also meant to demonstrate wealth or symbolise virtues.

In some instances, the construction of follies served as a method of employment for those who sought work. They also created projects for artisans who may have been struggling during difficult times.

Follies were often whimsical or eccentric structures that were made to project a false sense of age. For instance, they were made to look like ancient ruins (or sham ruins) despite being relatively modern constructions.

They were frequently constructed as towers, and like eyecatchers, they serve to create a focal point in a landscape, often on the grounds of a stately home. This attracts visual attention or otherwise punctuates the vista with a sense of drama.

Authentic ruins found on estates served as the original model for follies, which were first introduced in the 17th century. They became increasingly popular through the 18th and 19th centuries, adopting more exotic locations and depicting more fanciful eras.

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