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Ceremony at tower to celebrate eccentric Lord
LEGEND has it that Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners, dyed doves in vibrant colours and once kept a pet giraffe at his Faringdon stately home.
Now the eccentric aristocrat’s links with the Faringdon Folly landmark are being highlighted by the Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board.
A sign in memory of Lord Berners, who lived at Faringdon House, is being attached to the folly on Saturday, April 6, at 11am.
It will be unveiled by Sofka Zinovieff, the grand-daughter of Robert Heber-Percy, to whom Lord Berners left Faringdon House and his estate when he died in 1950.
Eddie Williams, a trustee of the Faringdon Folly Tower Trust and chairman of the Friends of the Folly, said he was delighted.
He added: “The folly was built for Robert Heber-Percy in 1935, and he gave the tower to the town in the 1980s.
“The plaque will be another good reason for people to go and visit it and find out more about Lord Berners.
“He was a very eccentric character and it was rumoured he once kept a pet giraffe, but I haven’t found any photos to prove it.
“Lord Berners died in 1950 but his memory lives on in Faringdon, and Peter Wentworth, one of the Friends of the Folly, sometimes dresses up as him.
“About 3,000 people a year climb the tower and we hope numbers will grow after the plaque has been attached.”
Eda Forbes, secretary of Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board, said the board agreed Lord Berners was a deserving recipient after he was nominated by a former mayor of Faringdon, Margaret Barker.
Ms Forbes added: “Lord Berners was a professional eccentric, an avant-garde 20th century composer who wrote ballet music.
“When he was living at Faringdon House in the 1930s it became a salon for cultural luminaries, including the painter Salvador Dali, novelist Nancy Mitford and the poets Siegfried Sassoon and Sir John Betjeman.
“The character of Lord Merlin in Nancy Mitford’s novel Love in a Cold Climate is based on Lord Berners.
“And Betjeman’s wife Penelope was once photographed in the drawing room at Faringdon House on her favourite horse.
“Perhaps Lord Berners’ most famous eccentricity was building the folly, the last known one to be built in England.
“Faringdon House is privately owned so a plaque on the folly will be much more visible to members of the public.”
The tower stands behind Sudbury House Hotel on top of Folly Hill just off the A420 on the Oxford side of Faringdon.