Meet the Folly’s Families
The Folly was built as a gentleman’s residence and offices in the period 1675-1679 for lawyer and local landowner, Richard Preston, born in 1643. After his death, the house was put to many different uses and lived in by a diverse range of people, but never again used as a family home, which may explain its name. You can learn about some of its occupants below.
This is not a complete list of known inhabitants. If you can share any information about someone you believe once lived here, please contact us.
The Folly was built for Richard and Lettice Preston and their three daughters, Margaret, Millicent and Lettice. Their servants and Richard’s legal clerks also lived and worked in the building. By his mid-thirties, Richard’s legal practice was so successful that he could afford to build The Folly, which would have been the largest house in Settle at the time. The house was completed by 1679.
Richard died in 1696 without a making a will, leaving the household in disarray. In 1702 the house passed to his eldest daughter Margaret, who quickly sold it to another wealthy local gentleman, in whose family’s hands it remained until 1980.
Margaret Dawson purchased The Folly in 1703, presumably for her son William, another lawyer, to live in and possibly take over Preston’s legal practice. However, William inherited Langcliffe Hall and never came to live at The Folly. The Dawson family therefore rented the building out. It was so large that they seem to have struggled to keep tenants or find a long-term use for the house. A map drawn by John Lettsom around 1766 names it as ‘Preston Folly’. By 1818, the Dawson family had purchased land around The Folly and now offered to let it out as “Settle Hall Farm” with 449 acres.
The Dawsons continued to let part of The Folly as a farm for the rest of the 19th century. Other parts of the building were rented by townspeople of Settle. The Dawson family owned The Folly until 1983.
Jane Ingham was a widow who lived at the Folly with her three children from c. 1841 until her death in 1859. She was a baker by trade using the beehive bread oven in the North end of The Folly, now the Coffee House.
Jane was one of twenty-two bakers in the Settle district, all women. This was unusual as baking was typically a male profession at the time. Demand for wheat bread was lower in West Yorkshire and Lancashire due to the local reliance on havercakes as a staple. Havercakes are flatbreads made from oats which were baked on a bakestone at home. Oats grew better in this part of the world than wheat.
David Hearsum came to Settle from Suffolk as a child. He and his brothers were railway labourers until David married Isabella Fryer in 1888 and they went into business. In 1901, they recorded their profession as “fried fish and potato chip fryers” for the census.
They moved their business into The Folly in 1904, putting the fryers into the big kitchen fireplace: the safest place for it! They also sold potatoes wholesale and offered accommodation for tourists. However, their success didn’t last and by 1913 the family had moved to Earby.
The Grisedales were a family of cabinet makers and furniture dealers. James Grisedale moved his family into The Folly in 1909 and, from the 1911 census, we know that he lived there with his wife, their three children, a niece, a nephew and a middle-aged boarder.
James used the main hall of The Folly as his shop and showroom. The top floor served as his workroom and joinery. As well as furniture, the Grisedales sold carpets, mattresses and soft furnishings.
James’ son Herbert took over the management of the business until it closed in the 1970s.
Phillip Dawson was a descendant of the same Dawsons who had bought the house in 1703. He moved into The Folly in the late 1960s. Parts of the house were now in very poor repair, while other areas were still rented out. Philip wanted part of the building to become Settle Library or to be used as a museum. In 1983 he sold The Folly, which was then split into two properties.
North Craven Building Preservation Trust was able to buy the south and central ranges in 1996 and the north range in 2010, reuniting the building. Although he did not live to see it, Dawson’s dream of a museum came true in 2001, when the Museum of North Craven Life was opened in its new home by Prince Charles.