The Count's House – Durham, England - Atlas Obscura

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The Count's House

A rather grand, but tiny, folly on the banks of the River Wear associated with a Polish count. 


The Count’s House, with its classic Grecian style Doric columns, is not something visitors would expect to find sitting on the side of the River Wear in the heart of Durham City.

The Count’s House was originally constructed in the 1820s by the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral. It was designed to resemble a Greek temple by the Durham architect, Ignatius Bonomi.

It’s actually a folly and was purposely designed to simply look nice on the riverbank. It also occasionally acted as a summerhouse.

It was named the Count’s House in error after Count Joseph Boruwlaski, an entertainer and dancer who spent much of his life in Durham. He has been quoted as saying: “Poland was my cradle, England is my nest; Durham is my quiet place where my weary bones shall rest.”

Due to a genetic condition, Boruwlaski was a little over three feet tall. It’s not actually known if he was a real count. He died at the age of 97, having spent 46 of those years in Durham. He is buried in the Cathedral.

Although there remains a rumor that after falling on hard times Boruwlaski lived in the folly, this is not accurate. Boruwlaski was actually invited to stay at Bank’s Cottage by the organist from Durham Cathedral. Bank’s Cottage was near the Count’s House. 

Interestingly, despite Boruwlaski having never lived in the folly, there are records of at least two families who lived inside the structure, including a family of seven. 

Know Before You Go

From Prebends Bridge, the folly is down a slope past the tennis courts onto the footpath. After exiting the arch from South Bailey, turn left towards the river. The grand facade is partly obscured under a tree. 

Due to vandalism, the house is gated and can only be admired from outside as you walk along the riverside walk.

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February 1, 2021

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