The Folly Tower


The Folly Tower

The Folly Tower is a folly at Pontypool, Torfaen, South Wales (Grid ref: Gbmaprim|SO2954902550|SO 2954902550). It is a prominent local landmark above the A4042 Pontypool to Abergavenny road and overlooks Pontypool to the west and the Plains of Gwent to the east. It is approximately 1,000 ft (over 300 m) above sea level on the eastern hill range of the Eastern Valley of Gwent, just south of Mynydd Garn-Wen.

Early history

The precise date of construction is unknown but it is generally thought that the tower was built around 1765 to 1770 by John Hanbury, a local landowner and ironmaster who owned Pontypool Park. The local name of The Folly was in use as far back as 1865 when the Free Press of Monmouthshire described it as:

"...an elevated spot where a Tower (formerly a Roman watch-tower) was many years since rebuilt as an observatory and which is popularly known as the 'The Folly'."

It is thought the tower was renovated around 1831 by Capel Hanbury Leigh. This date is derived from a keystone from the doorway bearing an '1831' inscription. The tower provided a vantage point over the local area and quickly became popular and a well known feature of the area.

In May 1935 as estimated 15 to 20,000 people gathered at the Folly Tower to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V with the lighting of a bonfire.

However, the folly, being open to the elements, began to fall into a state of disrepair during the late 1930s. Pontypool Park Estate Office attached notices to the structure informing visitors of the potential dangers of falling masonry. Its draw on the locals though remained unstinted and local poet and illustrator Myfanwy Haycock penned the following verse in 1937:

:"Here where the hill holds heaven in her hands,":"High above Monmouthshire the grey tower stands,":"He is weather-worn and scarred, and very wise,":"For rainbows, clouds and stars shine through his eyes."

Demolition

On the 9th July 1940, the Ministry of Defence ordered that, as a security measure under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act 1939, the Folly be demolished. This was in the mistaken belief that its presence would be a landmark for the Luftwaffe seeking to raid the nearby Royal Ordnance Factory at ROF Glascoed to the east beyond Little Mill.

Initial rebuilding schemes

In 1946, Pontypool Chamber of Trade led the first campaign to rebuild the local landmark but the project stalled quickly. Another attempt in 1948 campaigns started to collect public donations to rebuild the Folly Tower. However, an attempt to get local council funding was thwarted during a local council meeting in July of that year. The councils priority at the time being post-war house building programmes in the local area.

Rebuilding

At the beginning of 1990, a number of local historians and conservationists decided it was time to restore the Folly Tower to its former glory and a committee was set up to canvas various funding bodies as well as open negotiations with the National Park Authority. The creation of the "Campaign for the Reconstruction of the Folly Tower (CROFT)" then achieved sufficient backing so that the required £60,000 was raised to rebuild the Folly Tower.

In April 1990 the original foundations of the tower were unearthed and original dimensions of the tower were obtained. Planning permission for the reconstruction was given by Brecon Beacons National Park authorities in October of the same year.

In May 1991, 175 tonnes of dressed stone from the recently demolished Cwmffrwdoer Primary School were donated to the campaign by Torfaen Borough Council. Rebuilding work commences on the tower during November 1992. Building work ceases during the winter and resumes in the spring of 1993. The tower rises to approximately 20 ft (6 m) by September of 1993 before work ceases again for the oncoming winter. Work starts again in the spring of 1994 and by the July work on both the interior and exterior is complete.

The tower was officially reopened by HRH the Prince of Wales on the 22nd July 1994.

References

* CROFT, Pontypool, "Tower of Strength On a Hill of Dreams - The Campaign to Rebuild the Old Folly Tower, Pontypool. Official Souvenir Brochure", Griffin Press, 1994.

External links

* [http://www.torfaen.gov.uk/ServiceDirectory/Services/FollyTower.aspx Torfaen Borough Council information]
* [http://www.pbase.com/brian13/the_folly_pontypool__wales Photos of the Folly Tower}
* shows it as "The Folly" or "Tŵr Watch"
* [http://stats.guk2.com/caches/osgb_cache_details.php?g=81401&log=y Entry for The Folly] at geocaching.com
* [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/221853 Photo of the tower]


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