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13 November 2014

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You are in: Humber > History > Features > Forgotten folly

Bettison Folly

Forgotten folly

The strange structure hidden away in Hornsea

It stands unnoticed just off the busy Newbegin main road. A three-storey tower, clad in dark stone and topped by a flagpole.  Hidden behind trees on a patch of grass in a modern housing estate, few visitors know of the existence of Bettison’s Folly.

The structure was named after Victorian brewery owner William Bettison, who had it built in 1844. The tower originally stood in the gardens of Newbegin House; Bettison’s home in the centre of Hornsea. The house was demolished in 1966 but the folly survived.

According to David Bettison, William’s great, great grandson, the tower was built for a specific purpose: “Local legend has it that the folly was built so that when William made his journey back from Hull to Hornsea it enabled his servants, or his son, to climb the tower and view him travelling down Southorpe Hill into Hornsea.  So that the servants could have his meal ready on the table for when he arrived back.”

The tower was later used as a lookout post during World War Two and housed the town's air-raid siren.

John Miller and David Bettison

John Miller and David Bettison on top of the tower

The tower is Grade Two listed and is unique in having the UK’s only full length extending flagpole. It is believed to have been constructed by a local builder. The interior has ladders which give access to the castellated roof.  As a nod to William Bettison’s brewing business, glass beer bottles have been embedded as windows.

The exterior is unusual, as John Miller, chairman of the Hornsea and District Civic Society, explained: “The interior is standard brick but the exterior of the building is clad in what are known as treacle bricks. They are actually over fired bricks, which may even have been rejects. It is a unique skin to the building and has been largely responsible for keeping it waterproof”

The structure has undergone a recent survey and is in a sound condition but requires some cosmetic work. Mr Miller said the Hornsea Civic Society is hoping to secure a long-term future for the folly: “We’ve promoted it on Heritage Open Days for the last two or three years. And, if we can get it taken into Town Council ownership, hopefully, we’ll be able to make more of it and have it open on different days. The history of the tower is quite unique, as is the construction and we feel that it is important that the residents of Hornsea and the visitors know all about it.”

The decision on the future of the folly will be taken at a Hornsea Town Council meeting in early June.

last updated: 11/05/2009 at 17:20
created: 11/05/2009

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