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Edwardian postcard of Georgian folly castle

By dan shaw  |  Posted: March 08, 2012

Mock castle ruins in the parkland of Hagley Hall

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THIS Edwardian colour postcard depicts a landmark on the southern fringe of the Black Country and it comes from the collection of John Taylor of Kidderminster. The postcard was produced by John Pride and Sons and the caption reads "Hagley Castle, erected by a former Lord Lyttelton".

Hagley Castle stands about 3/4 of a mile to the east of Hagley Hall, it is a ruined castle folly begun in 1747 with 19th century additions and 20th century alterations.

Built of sandstone, the folly is rectangular in plan with a round tower at each corner. However, only the north-west tower is complete at four storeys high, the other three towers are deliberately ruinous and only one or two storeys high.

The western wall, seen in the postcard, is the most complete and the tall pointed windows in it are said to have been taken from Halesowen Abbey, which also supplied other masonry for the folly.

Inside the castle walls and next to the north-west tower is a Victorian singlestorey building. Today the castle is a private residence and is not accessible to the public.

The "former Lord Lyttelton" in question was George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton (1709-1773). He was a politician and patron of the arts and the man responsible for the rebuilding of Hagley Hall in its present condition and the landscaping of its extensive parkland.

Lyttelton got his friend Sanderson Miller (1716-1780) to design the hall in a classical Palladian style, although Miller was a leading exponent of Gothic revival architecture. However, Miller was able to indulge his Gothic tastes in his Hagley Castle folly, and he designed a number a similar mock ruins at other stately homes across the country.

Hagley Castle is the largest of the follies George Lyttelton had built. Others that survive today are the four stones on the summit of Clent Hill, the "Temple of Theseus", designed by James "Athenian" Stuart (1713-1788), beside the A456, and the Wychbury Obelisk, which may have been raised in honour of George's brother Sir Richard Lyttelton (1718-1770), soldier and politician, Governor of Minorca, 1763-1766, and Governor of Guernsey, 1776-1770.

George Lyttelton was secretary to Frederick, Prince of Wales from 1737 to 1744, when he then became a Commissioner of the Treasury with the title Cofferer of the Household. In 1755 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Duke of Newcastle's government and the following year he was elevated to the peerage as Lord Lyttelton, Baron of Frankley in the County of Worcester.

As a patron of the arts he supported the poet Alexander Pope and the writer Henry Fielding, who dedicated his novel Tom Jones to him. Scottish poet James Thomson also dedicated his poetic cycle The Seasons to Lyttelton.

Lord Lyttelton wrote a number of works himself, among them Dialogues of the Dead and The History of the Life of Henry the Second.

Although the postcard shows a Hagley scene it was franked at Tettenhall post office. It was addressed to Miss Cross, 50 Hillaries Road, Gravelly Hill, Birmingham, and the message reads, "Dear Agnes, I expect you think you are forsaken altogether this time, we have been very busy for about six weeks but we are subsiding a little now. How's Mr So and So and all at home, are any of you coming over soon? Come and have a look at little Willie, he's a picture. Ask Malcolm and George if they have forgotten the 5th of May. Heaps of love, Nance."

 Perhaps a reader may recognise some of those names.

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