Some older residents will remember the grand folly standing a top Knowle Hill. It was a well-known landmark, especially as seen from the Bath Road.
Benjamin Greenhill, the owner of Knowle Hall, built a sham castle folly on the top of Knowle Hill in 1864, partly to provide local employment and also to remind his wife, Pelagie, daughter of a French count, of the view from her home. It comprised a circular tower with a sitting-room at the top, lengths of curtain wall two storeys high, a “ruined” tower and imitation footings of two more towers with walling around a courtyard, laid out as a croquet lawn.
The stone was quarried from the hill and a limekiln was constructed near Crancombe Lane, almost next to the Knowle Inn. Building had taken three years under the supervision of the local contractor Mr John Varman, but by summer 1867 work was almost complete, and cannon were placed around the folly as the finishing touch. These were presumably the guns fired in September 1867 to mark the coming of age of Greenhill’s son.
The limekiln was worked by the Day family and the stone was carried from the kiln to the folly site by horse and cart. Knowle Hill Wood was later planted to disguise the quarry scars. The sitting room at the top of the turret was 300 ft above sea level and it was claimed that on a clear day more than seven counties could be seen. The room was used for shooting parties and larger parties were held on the croquet lawn in front of the tower. Stone steps were built into the hillside to give easier access from the house.
The tower was a famous local landmark but gradually fell into disrepair until only the main turret remained standing. Knowle Hall was let out as a boys’ boarding school, St. Andrews, and the headmaster was concerned about the safety of boys who climbed on the tower, so it was unfortunately demolished around 1949.
Copyright May 2013 Carol Hudson (gt.gt. granddaughter of Benjamin and Pelagie).