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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Racton Folly

Racton, folly, haunted, ghosts, West Sussex
There was always an air of mystery about this place.  When everything was new, and a car was a novelty, Dad used to occasionally take us for Sunday afternoon drives.  Passing along the lanes of the South Downs north of Chichester, he’d invariably comment, “Oh, there’s Racton Folly.”  And there it was, a grim looking tower hiding in the trees on a slight hill.  He spoke as though it was vaguely familiar; I’m sure it was my childish imagination that allocated to it a sinister appearance.  On one exciting day, together with my two older brothers, we actually visited it.  I recall crossing a field – so perhaps we were out for a walk – and being confronted with a forest of bramble and a broken fence in front of what looked like a ruined castle.  It seemed forbidding and therefore totally inviting.  I wasn’t allowed to go in.  My big brothers were – of course; I think I stood guard, or something – that was probably my dad’s way of making missing out mildly thrilling and marginally less disappointing.  They never told me what it was like, or what they’d seen.  Years later, as an adult, I’d sometimes drive past it in the distance myself and say, to whoever happened to be in the car with me, “Oh look, there’s Racton Folly.”

Racton Folly, Racton Tower, ruin near Chichester
Racton Folly was built between 1766 and 1775 by the 2nd Earl of Halifax, a statesman who briefly owned nearby Stansted Park.  Halifax, whose name was George Montagu-Dunk, “contributed so largely to the commerce and splendour of America as to be styled ‘Father of the Colonies’”.  Halifax, Nova Scotia, is named after him and he has an elaborate memorial in Westminster Abbey.  It has been suggested that the folly enabled Halifax to see his ships dock at Emsworth harbour about 3 miles away.  In fact, no one knows why he ever built the thing; it may have been just a rich man’s whimsical fancy, perhaps some kind of summerhouse.  But Halifax sold Stansted in 1781 so, whatever the intended purpose of his folly, he did not get much use from it.

Racton, haunted, supernatural, Britain
It’s certainly elaborate.  Constructed of brick and flint, it has a triangular base with a small round turret at each vertex and a tall, tapering, central tower of four stories – about 80 feet high. Today, it’s a Grade II listed ruined curiosity.  It could be a romantic building, ivy-clad, straight out of a Gothic fairy-tale.  But, oh no, it is a cold, unpleasant, place. The floors and roof have long gone, it is littered with rubbish, covered in graffiti and has a distinctly nasty ambience.  Sometimes it’s known as Racton Monument (to what?), Racton Tower, or even Stansted Castle.  No one’s alive to tell us what happened there, before or after it fell into disrepair.  There was talk, they say, of turning it into a dwelling, but nothing came of it.  Meanwhile, it is an isolated spot – an ideal place for folk to do things they shouldn’t, away from prying eyes.  Inevitably, it attracts stories.  I have read that evidence of witchcraft has been found there – surprisingly recently.  Paranormal groups have investigated reports of bricks being thrown out of upper windows; the ghostly figure of a woman walking through the ruins; a face at a window.  One group of investigators experienced eerie voices whispering in their ears, and the sensation of being touched.  Sceptics say the reports have been fuelled by pranksters, alcohol and drugs. 

Racton Folly, Earl of Halifax
So what do you think?  This is no obvious tourist attraction.  The dense foliage shuts out the modern world.  Overhead, rooks wheel in the sky and dying leaves rustle in a breeze.  Did you imagine someone walking outside, behind you; hear shuffling the other side of the wall?  Was that a murmured sigh coming from that room, or rats scavenging in the mess on the floor?  The air of desolation and decay is uncomfortable.  Of course, there is nothing to worry about; it’s just an old ruin.


But I’m sure the people will be back, searching for something.  Some may even go on the eve of All Hallows, when spirits ride through the sky laughing, the souls of the dead are abroad and sensible folk are tucked up at home in bed.  if you want to find Racton Folly, you can do so by walking up a bridleway, just to the south of Walderton on the B2146.  Don't forget your garlic, holy water etc.

There is more about Racton at West Sussex.info.

There is more on A Bit About Britain about Halloween and its origins.


Finally, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that there is actually a society, The Folly Fellowship, dedicated to, well – follies.  Their website is fascinating.  Follies are by no means confined to Britain, but they have listed over 1100 in the UK.  Checkout the Folly Fellowship’s website – this link takes you to their UK map page. 

26 comments:

  1. Hi Mike, Out of folly, you've woven a great story. It does look like an eerie, forbidding place.

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  2. definitely a creepy looking place.

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  3. Looks like great scenery for some of those murder mysteries you Brits are so famous for. :-)

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  4. Never hear of the place but then there are a lot of places I have never heard of before. Sounds a creepy place

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  5. It certainly has a creepiness factor built in!

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  6. I love follies. I think they helped people at at time when society was strictly controlled by rules and regulations.

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  7. There are a few triangular buildings around and they all seem to be observation towers, just built so that visitors could enjoy the view over the host's estate. I think I read somewhere that the idea was imported from Germany where such structures were the height of fashion in the eighteenth century.
    Isn't it strange how we find ourselves echoing our father's words - I often catch myself doing it.

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  8. Thank you for such a detailed (I like the links, especially the follies link) post, it's quite an interesting story, especially for how long it's been a part of your life since childhood! If I happened upon it I surely would enjoy touring it too. I don't think of it in terms of scary at all, but rather I'd wonder what fairy tale follies most certainly happened there once. Especially who originally owned it, and the name folly probably a fun hideaway to share with friends! Although, the last photo, does tend to run along the Halloween haunting thoughts!

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  9. A spooky place for this Halloween week. The photos are even spooky looking. Interesting about Halifax, who I have heard Halifax, NS was named after at sometime in my school history.

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  10. Thanks, but I think I'd rather visit it on some normal day, not Halloween, and about 10 AM when nothing ghostly happens. I feel sorry for the little boy who had to stand guard while his dad and brothers got to scope out the folly. Is that because it was on private property and you weren't supposed to be there? Just askin' I think the whole idea of follies is fun, and certainly built by people who had too much money. P.S. You do know that you're making the rest of us look bad by your frequent blogs of substance, don't you?? :-)

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  11. Great account, but I don't get why it is referred to as being a folly. Now, I could understand if it was a very expensive place that was never occupied, but it was--wasn't it?

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  12. Definitely something spooky going on in the last photo! Happy Halloweeeeeennnn!!!

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  13. Ha...I didn't expect the brick

    Happy Halloween to you.

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  14. I have visited a few follies but I think I will give that one a miss! Creepy.

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  15. I've only ever heard the word folly used to designate something as foolish, the purchase of Alaska was called "Seward's Folly" (before the discovery of gold and oil), for example. So I read the whole post thinking it was built on a foolish whim.

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  16. The Folly Fellowship. I will join.
    I don't know if you agree but there is something sad about follies and ruins which are tarted up and made neat and tidy. Sometimes they just ARE nasty; that is what they are like. Happy Halloween!

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  17. looks like my kind of place. the hubby & I love different, unique, and weird. ( :

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  18. Fascinating place Mike, very appropriate for the day too. Thank you for the links, I shall enjoy checking into those.

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  19. It is quite sad that the building of follies seems to have gone out of fashion - although the new supermarket down the road from here might be an exception to that rule. It is in Elland - from where the first Earl of Halifax originally hailed from.

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    1. The name is first recorded in about 1091 in the form Halyfax, possibly from the Old English halh-gefeaxe, meaning "area of coarse grass in the nook of land".[4] This explanation is now preferred to derivations from the Old English halig (holy), for example hālig feax (holy hair), first proposed by 16th century antiquarians.[5] The incorrect interpretation gave rise to two local legends. One concerned a maiden killed by a lustful priest whose advances she spurned. Another held that the head of John the Baptist was buried here after his execution.[4] The legend is almost certainly medieval rather than ancient, though the town's coat of arms still carries an image of the saint. Another explanation for the name is a corruption of the Old English words Hay and Ley, 'hay' and 'clearing' or 'meadow'. This etymology is based on the presence of Haley Hill, the nearby hamlet of Healey (another corruption), and the common occurrence of the surnames Hayley/Haley around Halifax.[6] The erroneous derivation from halig has also given rise to the demonym Haligonian, which is of recent origin and not in universal use.

      The Earldom of Halifax took the name of the town. The first creation, in the Peerage of England in 1677, was for William Savile, 1st Viscount Halifax. He had already been made Baron Savile of Eland and Viscount Halifax in 1668 and was later made Marquess of Halifax (this creation of the earldom became extinct in 1700; see Marquess of Halifax for more information). George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, (2nd order of the 3rd creation) became the President of the Board of Trade in 1748. In 1749 he helped to found the town (later city) of Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, Canada which was named after him. He helped foster trade, especially with North America. The Halifax River in Central Florida, United States, was named after him.

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  20. i went to Racton Folly on the 28/10/2014 we were investigating we had movement by our motion sensor a couple of compeling E.V.P's and we also used the spiritbox and had direct answers over it. although some people report having brick's thrown down at them from the second floor we never had this happen to us and i'm looking forward to going back real soon.

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  21. It certainly looks rather creepy to me. Thanks for sharing the interesting history.

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  22. Hello,
    My name is Andy Williams and im the lead Paranormal investigation of a team based in Portsmouth called "Ghost Intelligent Investigations" Whilst researching Racton Monument (Ruins) we found that you might be interested in looking at our Paranormal Investigation there as you have reference to it being Haunted/Not Haunted.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BElKT0c0Png

    We released our investigation via our Non-Commercial TV Show (GII-WebTV) Season 2 Episode 3.

    Any Questions please get in touch!

    Thanks
    Andy

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    1. Thanks, Andy. There's so many places to investigate! All the best.

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