Hoole Road - North Side

Folly House – Originally a Windmill

Folly House dominated the north side of Hoole Road in Flookersbrook for 250 years. In the Hoole Urban District Council Handbook produced in 1947 it is suggested that the house was originally built as a windmill. Its footprint on early Ordnance Survey Maps show that it had an octagonal shape which of course would have been appropriate to house the sail of a windmill.

1875 Ordnance Survey

John Ogilby’s road map of 1675 shows that there was a Mill at that site very near to Cosbrook (Flookersbrook) Hall.

John Ogilby’s Road Map 1675

The house was often referred to as Anderson’s Folly, as if the windmill had failed in some way. A suggestion that it was considered for conversion to a watermill is not plausible – very different machinery would have been required, and the nearest water source, the tributary of Flookers Brook which ran/runs parallel with Hoole Road would have required substantial diversion and work to make a mill race.

It is known that lands in Flookersbrook belonged to John Anderson from as early as 1654 (CRO 17EDC/5) when there was contention about his pew in St. Oswald’s Church, and in 1665 (CRO ZTCP/8/7) when there was a problem about him extracting clay. In a 1670 document, John Anderson is listed as an ‘Innholder’ in Newton by Chester. The Inn would almost certainly have been ‘The Ermine’. The following extract from Hanshall’s History of Chester 1817 explains how the lands came into his possession.

Extract from Hanshall’s History of Chester 1817

The lands were eventually acquired by Patterson Ellames, a druggist who was Mayor of Chester from 1781-2. A memorial stone containing his name can be seen on Bridgegate, marking the demolition of the old gate and the building of the existing one. The name Brookhouse had been given to the property and after Ellames’ death in 1860 the auction sale particulars showed that the fields attached to it were known as Mill Field signifying that there was once a mill on that site.

Auction Sale Particulars 1860 Auction Sale Plan 1860

The only known picture of Folly House is from an aerial photograph taken in 1931 in which the building stands out in the shape of the tower, or stump of a windmill.

Aerial Photograph 1931

Patterson Ellames resided at Brookhouse until 1824 when he purchased Allerton Hall, south of Liverpool for £28,000 and lived there until his death in 1860. Between 1824 and 1860, Brookhouse was leased and sub-leased. The tenants included Charles Brittain, a chemist who became bankrupt. His son William Brittain became the chief accountant and administrator of John Laird’s Shipbuilders in Birkenhead. Another tenant was Peter Keay, a coal agent who became involved in a cock fighting court case.

In 1860 the property was bought by Charles Brown, of Browns of Chester fame, who was at that time living with his mother in a cottage in the grounds. Charles Brown resurrected the name Folly House and set about improving the property creating large ornamental gardens (records of the Hoole Local Board show a planning application in 1877). He allowed his Folly Field to be used for a variety of events – the reunion of the Earl of Chester’s Rifles in 1883; the annual camps of the Chester Primitive Methodists in 1873-5; the show of the National Rose Society in 1892; and in 1887 he entertained All Saints Church choir there.

With the purchase of the property he also laid claim to the Manor of Flookersbrook and the first page of the Flookersbrook Improvement Act ensured that his claim was prominently registered.

Extract from Flookersbrook Improvement Act 1876

Charles Brown was Mayor of Chester six times and did many good works in Hoole and Newton, being associated with the building of All Saints Church, where there are memorials to him and his parents.

When Charles Brown died in 1900 he left to his niece, Lucy Elizabeth Brown “the use and enjoyment of The Folly, or any other of his houses at Newton and Hoole”. In 1905, she married the curate of St. John’s Church, Rev. Charles Griffin who became the vicar of Dunham Hill. They continued to live at Folly House until just before the outbreak of the First World War.

Folly House was then occupied by Cecil Plumbe Smith who had previously lived at Newton Hall. He was a partner in Walker Smith & Way, Solicitors, and had owned the land on which Hoole Alexandra Park was built. His wife Mary was Commandant of the Cheshire 46 Red Cross Detachment and was also Matron of Hoole Bank House Auxiliary Hospital.

Voluntary Aid Detachment Card of Mary Smith

They continued to live there until the mid-1930s when plans in the County Record Office show Folly House was to be demolished and the houses which are there now Fieldway and Sandileigh built on the site.

The Folly is still remembered today through the names of Folly Cottage and the more recently built Folly House, but the knowledge that there was once a windmill in Flookersbrook has been lost in time.

Acknowledgement - Cheshire Record Office for details of Auction Sale 1860 and for documents about John Anderson

[Article researched and written by Ralph Earlam, October 2017, Hoole History & Heritage Society]