The Folly

Originally posted on 3rd October 2012

As a rather proud (albeit ex-pat) Essex girl, with her heart firmly wedded to the Essex coast, I couldn’t resist reading more in to the reports that Grayson Perry has had planning permission granted for a holiday home in Wrabness, near Harwich. But this proposal appears to be no ordinary holiday home. it is proposed that the house will be an artistic interpretation of Essex culture, depicting the fictional life of one Essex woman called Julie, who eventually found contentment in her house by the coast.

In the most simplistic planning terms, it is important to point out that the proposed house is on the site of existing dilapidated farm house. Therefore it is a replacement dwelling, a normally uncontroversial planning consent, even in a rural location. It is also important to note that North Essex needs its cultural and tourist offer diversified in order to facilitate regeneration and has planning policies to support that. But this proposal seems a lot more romantic than just the standard planning considerations to me. The House of Essex revitalises the lost art of building follies.

A folly is defined, by the oracle known as Wikipedia, as

“a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggesting by its appearance some other purpose, or merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building to which it belongs”. 

And Essex is full of follies and extravagant buildings, like Bateman’s Tower in Brightlingsea or Belchamp Hall Folly in Belchamp Walter. You could even include Layer Marney Tower near Colchester – which was originally built as merely the gatehouse for a dwelling that was meant to rival Hampton Court, but was never finished.

The Essex Coast is a beautiful and dynamic place. It is diverse and it is romantic. It stimulates and its remote location evokes a sense of adventure. People have travelled to the Essex Coast to find contentment for centuries, from the Chapel of St Peters in Bradwell to the Kursaal in Southend. The county of Essex is much maligned and underrated. The building of the House of Essex isn’t necessary, but in a county dominated by building solely to meet housing targets, it is refreshing to see a proposal that is just for its own sake. In my opinion, any opportunity to celebrate, diversity and create new heritage should be wholeheartedly embraced. Even if it is a folly.

All the planning documents for the House of Essex are available to be viewed through the very good (other Local Authorites, please take note) Tendring District Council website.