C17 or early C18 hunting tower, subsequently named after the famed acting role 'Polly Peachum' played by Lavinia Fenton, mistress and then second wife of Charles Powlett, third duke of Bolton.
Reasons for Designation
The Mount, also known as Polly Peachum’s Tower is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* for its high-quality, well-detailed and balanced classical architecture dating to before 1723;
* as a rare surviving example of a hunting tower, a type of building that is one of the country’s earliest sporting structures.
* despite being a small structure, its historical significance in the landscape is documented by its depiction on several C18 maps and plans including Jeffrey’s 1771 map of Yorkshire;
* for its long-standing association with Lavinia Fenton, the actress who first played the part of Polly Peachum in The Beggars' Opera, capturing the heart of a duke, even though the connection to the tower is at least partially apocryphal.
* with Bolton Hall (Grade II), for which the tower forms an eye-catcher in the landscape.
The tower is named ‘The Mount’ on Ordnance Survey maps and is to the centre of an area named ‘Mount Park’. In the earlier C18 this was unenclosed parkland, thought to have been used for hunting and to provide a picturesque view from Bolton Hall which lies across the valley just over a mile to the north-west. The tower, within a small square enclosure, is depicted on a 1723 map. It is clearly illustrated on a detailed estate plan dated 1737 where it is annotated as ‘Lodg’. This shows the tower, complete with a cupola, set within a square enclosure with a northern entrance, this perhaps representing a garden. Its historical significance in the landscape is reflected by its inclusion on Jeffrey’s 1771 map of Yorkshire. The structure is considered to have been built as a hunting tower (a vantage point to observe hunting, a place for guests to take shelter and socialise) probably either by the first or second duke of Bolton (both named Charles Powlett) sometime in the late C17 or early C18. The tower, referred to as the Temple in Mount Park, is mentioned in letters dating to the 1790s by which time the estate had fallen into neglect. A letter to Lord Bolton from his agent dated 20 April 1798 notes that ‘the lead cupola of Mount Park has fallen in occasioned by a very hurling wind; [unreadable name] immediately carted down the lead to the hall, fearing depredations, & which, I suppose will be nearly 4 tons'. This letter continues, effectively suggesting the retention of the tower as a folly ruin, even proposing the addition of turrets to accentuate its effect as an eye-catcher in the landscape. By the 1840s, Mount Park had been subdivided into fields, the enclosure including the tower still described as parkland by the 1840 Tithe Apportionment. The accompanying plan (which approximately depicts buildings in use) omits the tower implying that it remained ruined and disused at that time. However the tower is shown on the much more detailed first edition 1:10560 Ordnance Survey map surveyed 1853 and on all subsequent editions.
The tower’s alternative name, Polly Peachum’s Tower, is based on the story that it was built by the third duke, also named Charles Powlett (1685-1754), in celebration of his marriage in October 1751 to his long-term mistress Lavinia Fenton (1710-1760). Fenton was originally an actress who, in 1728, took London by storm as Polly Peachum in the first run of John Gay’s ‘The Beggars’ Opera’. The duke, locked into an arranged marriage to an heiress from whom he had been separated since the death of his father in 1722, fell in love with Fenton who became his mistress, bearing him three sons. It is said that the tower was used by Fenton as a stage to sing from, although it is thought that the couple actually made little use of the Bolton estate in Wensleydale, having a greater connection to Hackwood House in Hampshire. It is possible that the tower was refurbished for Fenton, giving rise to the legend of its construction which was noted in the book by W Jones Barker, ‘Three Days of Wensleydale’ published in 1854.
Hunting tower, later retained as a folly, built in the C17 or early C18 for either the first or second duke of Bolton.
MATERIALS: coursed local limestone (Great Scar limestone), squared rubble walling with extensive ashlar dressings.
PLAN: square, and single-celled.
EXTERIOR: not inspected: information from other sources. The tower is of two storeys, the first floor being slightly taller than the ground floor. The building is classical in design with prominent, well-dressed rusticated quoins, a simple ashlar plinth, a plain ashlar band at mid-height, and an ashlar cornice with a low, parapet above. Each elevation has a large, centrally-placed first-floor window which rises from floor level, that to the north elevation being architraved. The entrance is central to the north elevation and is quoined. The ground floors of the other three elevations have large blind or blocked windows, the one to the west elevation having a slightly projecting ashlar frame.
At the time of listing (2021), the tower was partially ruinous and had lost its roof structure and all of its other timberwork. The north elevation stood effectively complete whilst the west elevation had lost about half of its cornice and parapet. The upper third of the south-east corner of the tower had collapsed with the loss of the cornice, parapet and first floor window heads to the south and east elevations.
INTERIOR: not inspected.