A folly is a decorative building built in a garden. Follies are built to resemble bridges, towers, temples, hermitages and more and reflect the tastes of wealthy 19th Century wealthy people returning from grand tours of Europe.
Rustic Hermits Cave and Footbridge (Rustic Grotto – Cave)
Arch (Rustic archway & bridge)
Four-sided arched gateway axial to rear of former house (Rustic Grotto – Archways)
Shell House / Dogs Graveyard
The follies were built by the Guinness family. The first folly to be built was Annie Lee Bridge, which commemorated the birth of Benjamin Lee Guinness's daughter in 1837. The rest followed during the 1850’s and 60’s.
Most of the follies follow the course of the Naniken River which runs through the park, the rest can be found along an oak-lined avenue.
The condition of the follies deteriorated over the years. In 2016 Dublin City Council started conservation works to preserve the follies for generations to come. The works involved stopping decay, cleaning, clearing vegetation, removing graffiti and protecting the structures from future vandalism. Some of the follies also received new railings.
During the course of the works some interesting discoveries were made. The first was at St. Anne’s Well, the medieval well which gives the park its name. The well is on the Record of Monuments and Places and is a protected structure. The structure around the well was also built by the Guinness family. While clearing the ground by the well, an old limestone path was discovered.
The second was a tiled floor in the Herculanean Temple. The square tiles have been hand-painted to create the impression of small mosaic tiles, featuring Grecian motifs, in contrast to the Temple's Roman design.