Man Hid Castle Behind Giant Bales of Hay

Problem: Robert Fidler wanted to build himself a castle, but didn't want to deal with all those pesky permits or anything like that.

Solution: Camouflage! (Hey, it worked in World War II!)

Over the course of two years, he managed to secretly – and unlawfully – build the imposing mock Tudor structure in one of his fields, shielded behind a 40ft stack of hay bales covered by a huge tarpaulins. [...]

Mr Fidler, a farmer, erected the disguise in 2000 out of hundreds of 8ftx4ft bales of straw and covered the top with blue tarpaulin.

After building the castle on the site of two grain silos at a cost of £50,000, he and his wife Linda went to extraordinary lengths to keep it secret. That included keeping their son Harry, now seven, away from playschool the day he was supposed to do a painting of his home in class.

"We couldn't have him drawing a big blue haystack – people might asked questions," said 39-year-old Mrs Fidler.

Mr Fidler, who has five children from a previous marriage, said: "We moved into the house on Harry's first birthday, so he grew up looking at straw out of the windows.

"We thought it would be a boring view but birds nested there and feasted on the worms. We had several families of robins and even a duck made a nest and hatched 13 ducklings on top of the bales."

Link - Thanks Brian and Kieran!

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By building this beautiful building under the noses of the public and especially the building and zoning commissions, Mr. Fidler usurped their power. Most people in those positions thrive on the little bit of power they derive from those lowly public offices. Now it is a matter of flexing their power even if it makes them look stupid. The point will be "I am a small person but I am in charge! Roar!" Hopefully the town fathers will see this for the tourism opportunity it could be, instead of the narrow power struggle it has become. You know if the public didn't complain about those ugly bails stacked up then why should they mind the wildly beautiful castle that now adorns their neighborhood.
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I would be very surprised if they made him tear the house down. If he’s got building code violations (which I have to think he does, since he’s not a professional builder and he didn’t have any inspections) then they’ll probably make him pay for the permit he should have gotten originally, plus a hefty fine, and make him correct any deficiencies in the building – after they make him tear it open so they can inspect it. If it’s purely zoning violations, they could make him tear down the building, or at least the parts that are non-compliant. And there will likely be some civil actions. In any case, he’s probably going to regret the gambit. Like Sid, I do feel a bit of sympathy for the guy, because a ton of effort went into that house. But, he was stupid, and stupid generally trumps effort.
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Yes, I deal with planning and zoning departments, on a very regular basis. And yes, it can be frustrating, but that only gives me the right to complain and negotiate and do what I can to improve the system: it doesn’t give me the right to ignore the law. From there, I can’t really follow your argument: you think a landowner should be able to do whatever they want with their property, but that freedom stops short of painting one’s house pink…? But fake castles are okay? (Frankly, I’d be embarrassed to live next to that monstrosity: this is the 21st century, everyone, let’s stop building like we don’t know where we are. I can’t stand theme park architecture. But that’s an aside.)

@Sid Morrison
I’m right there with you on this one, Sid. Getting variances isn’t always an easy process, but just suck it up and do what you have to do. The laws exist for very good reasons – but if you don’t agree with them, try to get them changed. Zoning offices are usually willing to allow variances, depending on the degree. The real key is this: you have to be a good neighbor. If you get your neighbors behind your project, and show the zoning office you’re looking beyond your own interests, you’ve got a chance.

If you don’t like the restrictions on a piece of property, don’t buy it – but I don’t know where you could possibly go where there isn’t some jurisdictional body telling you what you can and can’t build.

I guess my overall point is that if want to live in a community, we have to sometimes forego our own desires and make accommodations for that community. This guy preferred to turn his back on his neighbors and go it on his own, so he’s got to live with the repercussions.
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I agree with what was said above. It really says something about human nature, when his neigbors are fine with a gaudy bright blue tarp with dingy old tires hanging off of it, and a hay bale tower... but not a beautiful handmade castle. I'm sure his neighbors are giddy with mischievious delight at the thought of him being forced to tear it down.

Jealousy is horrible, as is the stuborn piggheadedness of city officials. Who are also in a indignant huff.

Thank god I'm not a land owner. Id get PISSED, if I paid money for land that OTHER people determined the use of.
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I have some empathy for the guy, but oh, his gambit was quite the gamble! What a huge risk!

The article says that the law reads essentially "if you have the structure up for 4 years and there are no objections you can keep it". But hiding it behind bales of hay for those 4 years clearly evades the *spirit* of the law. Whether he is successful or not will depend on how good his lawyer is. Either way, though, they will wind up paying *somehow* for their snubbing of authority -- you can bet on it. I know in my piss-ant little town, you would not want to try this, even if you got away with it, they'd figure out some other way to screw you.

A few years ago, my wife and I put up a large gazebo on our 2.5 acre property. I looked up all the regulations in advance and the peak of the roof was going to make the structure 6 inches too high (!). Rather than change the design or risk fines, we had to go through a rather onerous zoning variance process that delayed us a couple months and go before a review board, &c. It was a pain in the ass, but since we kissed their rings, they weren't out to get us on that or future issues, either.

Ted Kaczynski wasn't all crazy -- having a little cabin in the woods away from petty town officials has some merit.
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