Grotto

An underground chamber built as a folly. These could use a cliff edge of exposed rock, or be constructed above ground level, but built as if below it, for example by using large stones. These were common in the mid-18th century and often would have statues of Classical gods or depictions of the Arts, perhaps in niches.

There are many examples of grottos known from the historic parks and gardens in Surrey. At the formal gardens of Merrow Grange, Guildford, a glazed fernery or grotto with walls of tufa, sandstone and brick is crossed by a trellised causeway path. A curved spiral stairway descends to a red stone tessellated floor. The grotto is set in a landscape of pools, miniature cliffs and glades. The remains of a tunnel, decorated with mica, passes below an artificial mound capped by a pulhamite seat with a rocky overhang. There is scattered rockwork, including a cave, on the far side of the lawn.

Vast quantities of decorative material have been recovered from the grotto at Painshill Park, Cobham, which was finished by 1765. These included fluorite crystals, stalactites, over a ton of Gypsum flakes, quartz and calcite flakes and many other natural crystals. Stalactites, fossils and some splendid corals from the West Indies were also recovered.

The 18th century grotto at Clandon Park was designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, and contained a statue of the Three Graces.

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