Much of the Folly’s history is shrouded in uncertainty, although current research is uncovering new evidence concerning the house and its builder.
What is known for certain is that The Folly was built in the late 1670s by Richard Preston, a wealthy Settle lawyer. It stands by the old main road into the town from the south and was obviously intended to make an impact. When built, it would have had an open aspect over the Ribble valley and would easily have been the largest building in Settle. Preston died in 1695 and the house passed in 1702 to his elder daughter Margaret, who quickly sold it to another wealthy local gentleman, William Dawson, in whose family’s hands it remained until 1980.
From around 1708, the Dawsons leased The Folly to a succession of tenants and its uses included a farmhouse, bakery, warehouse, furniture shop, refreshment rooms, fish & chip shop, bank and salvage business. Nineteenth-century census records show that The Folly was generally occupied by two or three different families and their lodgers. In 1871, there were 21 people living in the house.
Philip Dawson was the last member of the family to own The Folly. Having restored it and lived in it for ten years, he sold it to an antiques dealer who sold it several years later to a developer whose plans were never realised. In 1990, The Folly was yet again put on the market, but failed to find a bidder.
In 1994, the house was divided into two and the north range sold for retail and residential use. The remainder stood empty and began to deteriorate until the North Craven Building Preservation Trust (NCBPT) purchased it in 1996 with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
In 2010, NCBPT was able to acquire the north range, reuniting the house once more under single ownership.
Find out more about the Museum of North Craven Life.