The Folly Tower, Pontypool
This prominent Gwent or Torfaen landmark is thought to have been originally built between 1765 to 1770 by John Hanbury, a local industrialist, landowner and ironmaster who owned adjacent Pontypool Park. It could well have been built on an earlier 'Roman watch-tower' which possibly overlooked the lowlands below.
The 18th century folly tower was renovated in 1831 by Capel Hanbury Leigh. This date is based on a keystone inscription above the doorway. A century or so later in 1935 20,000 people gathered at the Folly Tower to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V with the lighting of a bonfire.
However, the folly, on its exposed site, began to fall into disrepair during the late 1930s. Myfanwy Haycock, a locally born poet and artist composed the following verse in 1937:
'Here where the hill holds heaven in her hands,
High above Monmouthshire the grey tower stands,
He is weather-worn and scarred, and very wise,
For rainbows, clouds and stars shine through his eyes'.
During the early years of WWII the War Office ordered that the Folly be demolished as it might be used by the Luftwaffe aiming a bombing run on nearby ROF Glascoed.
Immediately after the cessation of hostilities in 1946 Pontypool Chamber of Trade led the first campaign to rebuild the landmark but there were higher priorities at that time such as housing, new industries and education.
The folly deteriorated until 1990 when a number of local historians and conservationists set up a committee to restore the Folly Tower to its former glory using funding bodies and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. The Campaign for the Reconstruction of the Folly Tower (CROFT) achieved sufficient backing so that the required £60,000 was raised including contributions from the Prince of Wales' Committee and European Regional Development Fund.
In 1991 175 tonnes of dressed stone from recently demolished Cwmffrwdoer Primary School was donated to the campaign by Torfaen Borough Council and work commenced in 1992 and by 1994 work was complete with the folly tower officially reopened by HRH the Prince of Wales on July 22, 1994.