The Folly Tower, Pontypool

The new Folly Tower

My pastel painting of the Folly Tower

The Folly Tower is built on a ridge so that it can be seen for many miles around and, conversely, it commands magnificent views of the surrounding countryside; it is claimed that seven counties can be seen on a clear day.

It was built by John Hanbury in 1772 as a summerhouse for him and his family. My earliest memories of the tower in the 1930s recall that it was in a state of disrepair, though worse was to follow.

I remember the surprise I had one day in the war when, on Tuesday, 9th July 1940,  I came home from school and walked down the garden path at my home in School Lane, Wainfelin. Usually, looking to the right it had always been possible to see the Folly standing up on the crest of the hill, but on this particular day it looked as though someone had cut it in half from top to bottom. It had been rumoured that the tower would have to be taken down because German bombers used it as a marker to try to locate the ordnance factory near Usk, known to Pontypool people as “The Dump”.

I don’t know whether they hadn’t used enough explosives to complete the demolition or whether they needed to demolish it in two stages, but soon the job was completed and the Folly was no more, just a heap of old stones.

A promise had been made at the time that, when the war was over, the tower would be restored but it was many years after the war before that promise was kept. In 1990 a committee was set up with the aim of restoring the old tower and was successful in obtaining funding for the project from various organisations. As it was destroyed to further the cause of freedom throughout Europe I think it was appropriate that the E.U. should have contributed to its restoration. The “Campaign to Rebuild the Old Folly Tower” (CROFT) was launched and finally raised enough money for the work to start in 1991. Three years later it was completed. It was officially opened on 22nd July 1994 by the Prince of Wales, almost exactly 54 years after I’d seen it demolished.

The Folly Tower has always had a special place in the hearts of the people of Pontypool. When travelling home by train you knew, when you came in sight of the Folly, that you were almost there.

From time to time I pay a visit to some of my old Pontypool haunts just to see if anything has changed. On one visit to the Folly, I was pleased to see that it had been restored to its former glory. I therefore made a return visit to paint the above pastel painting of the scene. For those who might prefer a photograph instead of my painting above, I append below a photograph of the Folly I took on the day I did the painting.

The restored Folly Tower

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4 Responses to “The Folly Tower, Pontypool”

  1. Lynda Says:

    Thank you for this, my (late) dad used to play at The Folly in the 1930’s too!

  2. Thomas Says:

    This blog is fantastic. I bought my first house on Hillside Drive (Cwmfields) 2 years ago and have loved finding out about the history of the area. I’m from Llanyrafon in Cwmbran and have loved visiting the refurbished Llanyrafon Manor for afternoon teas this summer. I spend my whole childhood wishing someone would fix it up and they do it as soon as I leave, typical, haha.

  3. robert pearce Says:

    I remember as a child living on the Usk Rd seeing the folly from the road.
    This was in the early days of war and the next day the folly had disappeared.
    Nice to see it restored today
    That was about 70 years ago

  4. philjenkins22Phil Jenkins Says:

    On the top of Cefn Crib there was a brick-built octagonal building with an attached square building and another square building 100 ft away. They have a military feel about them, concrete and unmarked bricks. Anyone know what they were? The octagonal shape resembles the folly – was it a WW2 diversion?

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