Much of the Folly’s history is shrouded in uncertainty, although current research is uncovering new evidence concerning the house and its builder.
What is known for certain is that The Folly was built in the late 1670s by Richard Preston, a wealthy Settle lawyer. It stands by the old main road into the town from the south and was obviously intended to make an impact. When built it would have had an open aspect over the Ribble valley and have easily been the largest building in Settle. Preston died in 1695 and the house passed in 1702 to his elder daughter Margaret, who quickly sold it to another wealthy local gentleman, William Dawson, in whose family’s hands it remained until 1980.
From around 1708, the Dawsons leased The Folly to a succession of tenants and its uses included a farmhouse, bakery, warehouse, furniture shop, refreshment rooms, fish & chip shop, bank and salvage business. Nineteenth-century census records show that The Folly was generally occupied by two or three different families and their lodgers. In 1871 there were 21 people living in the house.