Plan to restore well-known Dales folly submitted

Polly Peachum's Tower. Photo: Gordon Hatton/Wikimedia.

Plans have been submitted to restore a well-known building built by a lord for his opera singer mistress in the Yorkshire Dales.

A planning application has been submitted to bring Polly Peachum’s Tower, near Wensley, back into use as a “small entertaining space”.

The application has been submitted by owners Bolton Estates.

Documents submitted with the application state: “The building is to be used as a small entertaining space, in association with the regular running of the wider Bolton Estate.

“The Estate would intend to host shoot lunches during the season, amounting to approximately 25 occasions, together with irregular family use.

“The building is particularly small, so the maximum number that could be accommodated would be around 15 people so this is not a significant use, nor is it considered to be creating any sort of nuisance.”

The documents add that with all “glorious follies” the tower “sprung out of love”.

“Constructed in Great Scar limestone, it sits in a derelict state, on high ground at Capple Bank.

“Its genesis can be traced back to a love affair between the Duke of Bolton and the star of the Beggar’s Opera, being performed at Lincoln’s Inn Fields Theatre, on the 29th January 1728.

“The Duke, who was also Constable of the Tower of London at the time, was in the audience and became
besotted by Lavinia Fenton, who was playing the part of a prostitute called Polly Peachum and had
taken London by storm with her performance.”

The papers add that as a married man, the Duke could only make Lavinia his mistress and together they produced three sons out of wedlock but, when the Duke’s wife died in 1751, he married Lavinia who was duly installed as Duchess of Bolton.

Later that summer, the Duke built the summer pavilion, now known as Polly Peachum’s Tower, for his bride.

“This was constructed as a two storey, square, classical tower and, although possibly well maintained until the
early part of the 19th century, has since partially collapsed, with the building now exposed to the elements on all sides.”

The applicants state that the Tower is well-known locally “both for its poetic story and its physical presence sitting on the side of the hill”.

The estate’s records have revealed that the lead cupola “has fallen in occasioned by a very hurling wind”, as noted from a letter to Lord Bolton in April 1798.

The supporting documents add: “It is considered unlikely that the roof was reinstated and, from that date, the building has begun to deteriorate.

“There is little doubt that, if left in its present condition, within the next 50-100 years the building will
disappear from the landscape completely.”

For more details on the application click here.