Browne’s Folly

Monkton Farleigh, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


Browne's Folly, Monkton Farleigh

Browne’s Folly is a prominent landmark above the valley of the River Avon and of the skyline to the east of the City of Bath. It stands at the highest point of the parish of Monkton Farleigh and of the Hundred of Bradford on Avon high above the junction of the Avon and  the Bye Brook valleys and right on the boundary between the counties of Wiltshire and Somerset.

It was built in 1848 for Wade Browne MA, JP (1796-1851) who had taken on the lease and lordship of the manor of Monkton Farleigh in 1842. He had come from Yorkshire, where his father, also called Wade Browne (1760-1821) was a merchant and had been the Mayor of Leeds in 1791 and in 1804. His land included the extensive Bath Stone quarries under Farleigh Down and it has been suggested that he had the tower built to give employment to quarry workers during a downturn, or to show off  the products of his quarries -perhaps both, or maybe it was just a vanity project that gave him a magnificent viewpoint. It was described as “recently completed” in the Bath Chronicle newspaper in September 1848.

The tower was restored in 1907 by Sir Charles Hobhouse, a later Lord of Monkton Farleigh.  It formed part of the land that was developed as the Avon Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve, but it was bought from the Trust by the Folly Fellowship in 1998, who at that time provided the present roof. It is, of course, a target for vandals who have managed to remove the steel door.

Many references and maps have “Brown’s Folly”, but Wade Browne spelt his name with an E.