In August 1753 Thomas Davers, esquire, of the Middle Temple, acquired the copyhold of 11/2 acres of the Osier Hope, a parcel of riverside land south of Blackwall, where he built, `at vast expense, a little fort ... known by the name of Daver's folly'. In financial difficulty, Davers surrendered his property in August 1754.
The first occupant to sell liquor was Henry Annis, who became copyholder in 1755 and obtained a licence in 1758.579 The name Folly House first occurs in 1763.
Nothing is known of the original structure, which was apparently altered by Annis by 1757. Additional buildings for the accommodation of `Friends and Customers' were erected in the mid-1760s by William Mole, who also made use of the surrounding foreland as a garden. Perhaps because of its convenient riverside location between Greenwich and Blackwall, the Folly House was a popular venue for whitebait suppers throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
When the property was auctioned by Mole's widow around 1788 it contained a variety of rooms `for the accommodation of genteel company', an extensive pleasure- and kitchen-garden, a paved causeway, and a landing-place leading to a terrace of 186ft in front of the river.
In 1800 possession of the Folly House and surrounding land passed to Benjamin Granger, the Blackwall coal merchant, who appears to have added to the existing group of buildings almost immediately. A plan of 1817 shows the public house, its outbuildings and gardens (which at the time included a cockpit), with smaller buildings flanking to the north and south. Pictorial representations of the Folly House of this period are somewhat inconsistent and the tavern may have been considerably altered or even rebuilt on a number of occasions. However, the evidence indicates that it was a two-storey main building of three bays facing the river, with a shallow gable roof surmounted by a balustraded balcony. The building was extended to the south, further away from the riverside, where the terrace featured a row of triangular shelters or bowers for patrons.
Further alterations and additions to the property in the 1830s and 1850s included the building of a new causeway, 60ft long. The tavern enjoyed a resurgence in business with the growth of shipbuilding yards on the riverfront in the 1850s and 1860s, until it was closed in 1875.
[Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives]