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Castles, Follies and Elephants

Claire Harper, James & Oliver Perry , 2018

Five playful structures located in the grounds of Kielder Castle

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Castles, Follies and Elephants is a temporary installation in the grounds of Kielder Castle that takes the form of a series of sculptures realised as playful objects in the landscape. Each of the five remaining structures that make it up is derived from a fragment of a buildings or other facility that has influenced the development of Kielder over ther past 1000 years.











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Castles, Follies and Elephants is located in the grounds of Kielder Castle visitor centre.












Harper Perry's proposal developed out of an historical study of the Kielder landscape and the economic, political, and physical shifts that have conspired to shape the landscape of the North Tyne valley.  As a uniquely unnatural wilderness, the Kielder landscape bears visibly the traces of the human actions and endeavours that have shaped it over centuries. 

Castles, Follies and Elephants takes fragments of these extended histories.  It makes references to ancient settlement forms and early defensive structures that signified the position of Kielder within the Border territories during long periods of conflict between England and Scotland.  Kielder was also the hunting retreat of the Duke of Northumberland, annexed to the Duke’s main residence at Alnwick Castle, an early example of the valley being appropriated for leisure and recreation.  More recently it has a history as a productive landscape, characterised by large-scale afforestation and the flooding of the reservoir representing one of the last great works of post-war public infrastructure development. 

Taking references from these histories, Castles, Follies and Elephants creates a new artificial landscape within the grounds of Kielder Castle where visitors to the Castle are invited to take a journey through the grounds where a series of sculptural objects referencing the history of the valley are sited. 

Each object responds to and takes advantage of the opportunities of its respective site, suggesting the different relationships that the historic activities undertaken in the valley have had with the natural environment. For instance, 'Plug' captures the visible form of Kielder Water's valve tower, 'Fuel' imagines the negative form of one of the many drift mines that used to work in the area, and the ‘Defence'’ by an elevated look-out. 

Through these fragments - deliberately tactile, brightly coloured and human-scaled - visitors will be invited to engage with both the objects and the landscape in different ways.

In its own way, Castles, Follies and Elephants also addresses the way history is often made up of improbably linked elements and so the artwork invites us to imagine how many other narrative connections could be harnessed to tell the story of a single place.

Observatory (now dismantled)

Peel Tower



Valve Tower

Lewie Camp


Minotaur maze is also located in the Castle grounds and The grass seemed darker than ever is sited 600m away along the route of the Duchess Trail.