Saturday, March 09, 2013

Eccentric Folly Builders: Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Lord Berners (1883-1950)

Photo by Rose Robinson, 22 April 2008

Lord Berners, as he was usually known, was a man of many talents and eccentricities. He composed ballets, movie scores, songs and an opera. He wrote several autobiographical works and six novels. His eccentricity became evident at a young age. After hearing that dogs instinctively learn to swim if thrown into water, he threw his mother's spaniel out of the window thinking it might learn to fly. He used to dye his doves pastel colours. Berners had a keen wit and enjoyed playing practical jokes on guests to his home, Faringdon Hall, Oxfordshire, who included: Salvador Dali, Gertrude Stein, H G Wells and Aldous Huxley.

In 1935, Lord Berners built the 140 foot (43m) Faringdon Folly on top of Faringdon Hill. It was designed by Gerald Wellesley, Marquess of Duoro. This square tower is made of Fletton brick and has an octagonal crown. It is a Grade II listed building, since 1986, and is known alternatively as Lord Berner's Folly.

Robert Vernon Heber-Percy, Berner's "companion" inherited the folly and gave it to the people of Faringdon in the 1980s. It is now open to the public on the first and third Sundays from April to October from 11 am to 5 pm, for a small entry fee. The folly surrounded by woods and a sculpture trail that you can visit for free.

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