Friday, August 07, 2009

Follies and Fishing!


I have a bit of a thing about follies and pleasure houses. On my recent research ramblings through Rutland I came across the most perfect little Georgian fishing house on the Exton Park estate which gave a wonderful insight into one of the ways in which our Regency characters whiled away their time at their country estates.

Fort Henry, as it is called, was built in 1786 in the Gothic style complete with pinnacles and turrets. It was commissioned by the Earl of Gainsborough and is surrounded by woods, water and pleasure gardens. Here, during the Regency period, the Noel family would come to spend lazy days by and on the water, bathing, sailing and fishing. The interior of the folly, with views across the lake, was decorated with ornate plasterwork and provided a space for informal meals and entertainments. In a rather nice democratic touch, the Earl also apparently held special entertainments for his estate workers and servants at Fort Henry!

The Earl was hardly original in building himself a fishing folly. George IV had a fishing temple in the chinoiserie style on the north bank of Virginia Water built at a cost of £8730. Fly-fishing was a pastime popular with Georgian gentlemen. It is the subject of Mr Darcy's first conversation with Mr Gardiner in Pride and Prejudice, a hobby that was evidently of common interest to landowners and wealthy merchants alike. Fishing was also favoured by the ladies as well. Susanne Knight refers in an article to the journals of Diana Sperling, a young lady who recorded all sorts of country house pursuits including an outing of three ladies and two gentlemen who were all vying for the catch of the day! It isn't known whether the ladies also bathed at Fort Henry but it is entirely possible to imagine that they might have slipped away for a private dip in such secluded waters!

Nicola Cornick

9 comments:

Melinda Hammond said...

Sounds a wonderful place, Nicola. I must try to find it!

Nicola Cornick said...

It's stunning, Melinda. We stumbled across it by chance on a walk - we came down the path and there it was sitting there by the water looking impossibly romantic in the sunshine! Of course I then had to go back and read all about it!

Jane Odiwe said...

Sound like heaven! I really would like to see it.

kate tremayne said...

Thanks for showing us this. It is a beautiful and inspiring setting and I was immediately transported into the Georgian world.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you, Jane and Kate. It was particularly heavenly on a sunny day when there was no one else about and you could imagine you were stepping back in time!

Jan Jones said...

Very, very pretty. And SO romantic for sunset assignations. Not that the thought crossed your mind at all, I daresay.

(Most people stumble across derelict shopping trolleys and thigh-high nettles on country walks - trust you to be different)

Nicola Cornick said...

Well, there was plenty of potential for the nettles, Jan, but you'd have to be very determined to push a shopping trolley all that way. It really was in the middle of nowhere. Mind you, there's always someone who'll give it a try!

Alison said...

Such a gorgeous picture.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thanks, Alison! I thought it was stunning. My husband was very cross that he had left his camera behind that day!