In contrast to the clock tower , which stands proudly on the corner of the Council House as a monument of civic importance, Perrott’s Folly stands in Edgbaston, as one man’s monument of self-promotion. It is thought to have been constructed as an elaborate venue for entertaining guests.
Nestled away at the top of Waterworks Road the mysterious Georgian Folly-tower has been the source of intrigue for centuries.
Commissioned in 1758 by the wealthy and eccentric land-owner John Perrott, the gothic tower would have been the tallest structure for miles around when it was first built, giving its owner a huge status boost amongst his peers. Romantic tales suggest the loss Perrott felt at his wife’s death was so great that he desired to be elevated above the clouds to look upon her grave which was ten miles away behind the Clent Hills. Others suggest it was to spy on his cheating wife before she died.
The tower itself is a melancholic, haunting structure, surrounded by worn brick walls and a black iron gate. Standing in the courtyard, it is easy to see why its statuesque presence is rumoured to have inspired a young Tolkien to create the tower of Minas Tirith in the Lord of The Rings.
Inside the painted walls are chipped away, revealing the delicate brickwork beneath. Most of the Folly is untouched from its original 1758 state, although some restoration works have taken place to ensure its stability. A narrow, winding staircase of 139 steps stretches up one side of the tower, branching off into the individual rooms. Each floor of the Folly has different styled windows, adding to the eccentricity of the design. The rooms are small and simple, and would most likely have been used to entertain guests with different vistas of the surrounding lands. On the top floor the original ceiling plaster work remains, as a cracked reminder of the time that has passed.
In 1884 meteorologist Abraham Follett Osler, the same Olser who donated Big Brum’s clock, turned the tower into one of the first weather stations.
The weather station was later used by the University of Birmingham until they finally vacated in 1979. Remnants of this use can still be seen in metal chains and loops that run up the side of the tower.
The building is currently managed by Trident Reach the People Charity who will continue to explore the buildings heritage through the Folly Project; a programme of contemporary art and architecture. Fundraising is ongoing to raise £1m for plans to open up the building for the local community to use and enjoy.
Article by Matthew Goer, Director, Associated Architects
Published in the Birmingham Post, 26 December 2013