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Welsh Follies

The Stories of

60 Strange Buildings in Wales

Graham Watkins

Copyright 2013 Graham Watkins


Folly’ n. a want of sense; weakness of mind; irrationality; a foolish action; a useless and needlessly extravagant structure.

Welsh Follies come in all shapes and sizes, from the ‘Smallest House in Britain’ on the quay at Conwy, once the home of 6’ 3’’ fisherman, Robert Jones, to Portmeirion Village where, between 1925 and 1975, Sir Clough Williams-Ellis constructed follies on an epic almost industrial scale. In building Portmeirion, Williams-Ellis produced one of the most extravagant and beautiful follies in the world. In the 1960s his Italianate creation was used as the location for the cult television programme ‘The Prisoner’. Today, Portmeirion is a popular tourist attraction visited by thousands of holiday-makers every year.

Like the Irish famine follies of the 1840s, some Welsh follies were built to provide a means of sustenance for hungry men. Twr y Deri, (Derry Ormond Tower), built near Lampeter in 1837 on the orders of a local squire, is one example. The squire wanted to provide employment for the men of Betws Bledrws. Other follies were built as ornaments by wealthy landowners, monuments to their vanity or as exclamation marks placed on the land to record often forgotten historical events. Some Welsh follies are eccentric, many are curious, pretending to be something that they aren’t while others have a more serious purpose, but all have a story to tell.

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