Around Faringdon’s market square is a somewhat quirky array of signs: the Frivolously Unnecessary Notices, or F.U.N.
Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners, or simply Lord Berners, of Faringdon House ordered the installation of these 12 pointless signs around Farringdon’s marketplace in 1935. Each bears a unique and novel message such as “Children left unattended will be sold to the circus,” and “Entrance to Secret Bunker.” Though the signs deteriorated and disappeared over the years, they have since been restored and visitors are invited to find them all.
Visitors may also spot the famous dyed pigeons of Faringdon perched, suspiciously still, on a few Faringdon window sills. The practice of dyeing pigeons bright colors was another trivial idea of Lord Berners that continues to this day at Faringdon House.
Perhaps Berners’ most dominant legacy in Faringdon however is the Faringdon Folly Tower, which stands 140 feet tall atop Folly Hill. The location is steeped in historical significance, from King Alfred’s 10th-century castle to a fortification used by Matilda during the Anarchy, and another used during the Civil War by Oliver Cromwell, who sought to take over Faringdon House.
The story goes that while walking on the hill, Lord Berners jokingly mentioned to his companion, Robert Heber-Percy, that “this hill needs a tower.” This lighthearted comment led to much local dismay and complaints. Upon discovering the unrest his passing comment had caused, Berners fixed upon the idea, and stating that “the great point of the tower is that it will be entirely useless,” he commissioned Lord Gerald Wellesley to build it. It was not only his neighbors that Berners wished to tease, however, for knowing Wellesley’s disdain for Gothic architecture, it is in this style that Berner requested his folly. In response, while Berners was away, Wellesley built the tower in his own preferred Classical style. Berners returned home to most of the tower already built, but insisted that the last 10 feet be done in his requested Gothic style. This resulted in the juxtaposed clash of two styles.
These days, the folly and its surrounding pine woodland are admired by locals and visitors alike, who can climb the hill and view the tower and its surrounding pine woodland. The curious character of Berners is honored with many sculptures throughout the small woodland, including a fairy door, a troll, a wooden cannon commemorating the hills’ role in the Civil War, and perhaps most appropriately, a giraffe poking its head from a pine tree and an accompanying F.U.N nearby instructing visitors, “Please do not feed the giraffes.”
Know Before You Go
These map coordinates are for Folly Hill, Tower, and woodland. Parking is limited nearby, but town center parking is only a 15-minute walk away.
In the town center, you will find the F.U.Ns and a free F.U.N trail pamphlet is available from the Tourist Information Centre. An online version can be found here.