“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Willet's Hidden Tower

Willet Tower is a folly that can be found hidden in dense woodland on the summit of Willet hill, to the south of the village of Elworthy in Somerset.

The tower stands 15 metres tall and was apparently originally built to resemble a ruinous church tower. The exact date of the tower's construction is uncertain but it was documented in 1791, meaning it was built at some point before that date. Some sources say that the tower was built in 1774 with the required funds of £130 being raised by public subscription. Other sources suggest that the tower may not have been built until 1782.

It is also unclear if the tower served any purpose or was a pure folly. Perhaps it was just an eye catcher or a “steeple” for horse riders? When the tower was originally built Willet hill would not have been home to the dense tree coverage which now hides its summit. So the tower would have originally commanded views across the landscape and also could have been seen from a good way off. As it can be seen from the below pictures, the tower did once have an internal wooden staircase, so it is likely that the tower would have been used for viewing the surrounding countryside at some point in its lifetime.

British listed buildings website describes the tower as:

Folly in the form of a ruined church tower. Circa 1820. Iron stone random rubble, brick dressings. 3 stage crenellated tower, one merlon on South side larger to give the illusion of stair turret, stepped buttresses to second stage, arched openings third stage, arched entrance on East and West sides. About 5 metres of wall on South side, 6 metres high including arched opening. Remains of rafters inside and indications of stairway to viewing platform. The quality of the workmanship is poor, but the tower is a very prominent landscape feature crowning a wooded hill and visible for some distance. Probably erected for Daniel Blommart of Willett House (qv) and therefore perhaps by the architect of Willet House, Richard Carver.

Ultimately however, the detailed history of Willet Tower remains uncertain,  and this folly that was once built as a sham ruin of a church tower is ironically now a ruin itself.

Approaching the tower.

The remains of the internal staircase.

Pictures: Somerset (March 2016).

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Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Ancient Holford Dog Pound

The unusual structure in the below pictures can be found in the Somerset village of Holford, at the entrance to Alfoxton Park.

The structure is an ancient dog pound, which was originally owned by the St. Albyn family, who were the owners of Alfoxton Park. The plaque on the dog pound provides a little of the history of the structure:

“This ancient dog pound
was given to
the village of Holford in 1982
by the family of the late
John Lancelot Brereton
descendants of the St. Albyns
owners of Alfoxton
since the 15th Century
whose crest appears above”

The dog pound dates from sometime in the 16th to 17th centuries and is a square roof-less structure with walls that are about 3 meters tall. There is an opening at the rear where once a gate or door may have stood. The walls of the dog pound have small slits in them which are angled downwards through the walls. These slits were probably used to enable people on the outside to look down and in to the dog pound and see what was on the floor (e.g. the dogs).

The dog pound was apparently built following the tragic death of the huntsman who used to look after the hunting dogs of the Alfoxton Estate. The story seems to be that back in the day (no exact date given) the meat for the estate’s hunting dogs was stored by being hung in trees. This practice however seems to have had the unfortunate side effect of attracting local stray dogs which in turn would unsettle the estate’s hunting dogs. On the tragic night of the huntsman’s death it is said that he was awoken by the sound of unruly dogs and went to investigate. Unluckily for the huntsman he did not dress in his usual hunting attire and was apparently not recognised by the estate’s hunting dogs who savaged and killed him.

Whilst there does not seem to be any clear evidence to support this story, it is a possible reason why the Alfoxton Estate may have chosen to build the dog pound, to house local stray dogs and prevent them from causing trouble on the estate.

On my visit to the dog pound, a small scattering of used prophylactics made me think that the structure may still to this day be used for a dog-related activity. But the less said about that the better!

The Holford dog pound, at the entrance to Alfoxton Park.

The crest of the St. Albyns family.

Pictures: Somerset (March 2016).

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