Is the City of Bath just a folly? From the view at Prior Park it is

Prior Park is positioned on a hill looking down onto the City of Bath. It is the ultimate example of landscape gardening. It was developed by Ralph Allen, an 18th Century entrepreneur. Ralph Allen made his money by establishing the postal service in Great Britain, which enabled him to rise from a mere Postmaster in Bath in 1712 to the owner of the longest Palladian mansion in Britain at the time, by 1752. His beautiful house still stands, perched on the hill, with Bath as the feature of his ornamental garden.

Ralph also invested the money he had made from the postal system into the purchasing of local quarries to supply Bath with its distinctive pale yellow stone; making a further fortune by establishing a railway and clearing the river Avon to Bristol to enable the stone to be transported more widely. Prior Park mansion and its follies, is a showcase for the stone which he quarried and transported.

Ralph Allen was a popular man of his era, with many influential friends and a penchant for the cultured clique, including Alexander Pope who was a close friend and frequent visitor at Prior Park and who helped Ralph design the garden. Also among this group was the author Henry Fielding, the actor David Garrick and William Pitt the elder (a man whom I have recently discovered my husband may be a descendent of – exciting).

Pope’s interest in the art of designing nature was shown in the Epistle IV he addressed to another friend, Lord Burlington;

Consult the genius of the place in all;

That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;

Of helps th’ambitious hill the heav’ns to scale,

Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;

Call in the country, catches opening glades,

Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,

Now breaks, or now directs, th’intending lines;

Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs.


  There was once a Gothic Temple in the garden, among other follies, but as Ralph Allen had no  heir and the estate was sold off after his death, eventually becoming a school, the garden features were not all preserved. One folly, The Sham Bridge, has recently been restored. I have included a picture of this at the head of a formal lake.

However the most impressive architectural folly in the Garden is the Palladian Bridge stretching across and damming the lower ornamental lakes. It is a focal point for nearly every view and with the City of Bath as its backdrop, if you look down from the house, it would have been a perfect picture to constantly enjoy.

Ralph Allen opened the park to visitors on Thursday afternoon, but as he died in 1764, and Jane Austen was not born until 1775 and she did not come to Bath until the early 1800’s when Prior Park was a Seminary, I cannot say for certain whether she ever walked the Prior Park paths.

More on Prior Park, its Grotto and Graffiti next week.

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional love stories.

See the side bar for details of Jane’s books, and Jane’s website to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark

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Follies rolling into February – the obelisk at Kingston Lacy

 There is of course another form of folly, the memorial of the Grand Tour, an article obtained in pursuit of antiquity.

William Bankes, a friend of Lord Byron, who travelled through the period of Peninsular War was a collector.

In the later years he travelled with the well known excavator of Egyptian artefacts, Geovanni Belzoni, who he engaged to bring back an obelisk, which was a feat which took years.

On its first move, it plunged into the river out of sight.

However the obelisk did eventually make it to William Bankes home in Kingston Lacy, Dorset.

It arrived in England in 1821 and the Duke of Wellington offered to ship it to Dorset on a gun carriage.

The Duke of Wellington was then asked to lay the foundation stone in April 1827, when the granite steps it is mounted on and other fragments of the obelisk arrived in England.

This is commemorated in the plaques about the obelisk. As is the fact that King George IV donated granite from the ruins of Leptis Magna to repair damage to the obelisk which occurred during travel.  

Kingston Lacy 4  

 The obelisk still stands proudly erect in full view of the house at Kingston Lacy. It comes from the temple of Isis on the island of Philae, and is inscribed with the names of Ptolemy VII Euergetes II who died in 116BC, and his second consort Cleopatra III recording the exemption granted to the priests of Isis from the expense of local administration and has both Egyptian and Greek inscription.

Kingston Lacy 1

There are many more tales to come from Kingston Lacy, but I’ll save those for another day.

To find out more go to:

Kingston Lacy 3 (2)

Illicit_LoveJane Lark’s debut novel is due to be published 2nd May 2013, by Sapphire Star Publishing See  Jane’s website to learn more or click  like on Jane’s Facebook  page. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark