Our flight to New York was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, so there were no Tim Tam Slams for us this holiday….. (see previous post)
So we decided (naturally) to go for a day trip to Margate instead! Our main objective being to visit the Shell Grotto……
The Shell Grotto is a Grade 1 listed underground series of tunnels whose walls are completely covered in 4.6 million shells! And it’s amazing!
No-one knows its true heritage or purpose – and the story of it’s discovery is also thought to have been exaggerated after 177 years of it’s telling…..
A man named Mr James Newlove was digging a duck pond in his back garden in 1835 – when a hole appeared. He decided to lower his young son Joshua down to investigate – and he came back up with tales of passageways covered in shells – and they had discovered the Grotto!
They opened the Grotto to the public in 1836 – and it’s been open ever since! There are some great photos in the mini museum there of early visitors and the different entrances and visitor centre set ups over the years.
All the shells would have been so colourful when it was first made – but apparently years of gas lighting has darkened them – and it feels like the world has turned black and white when you enter it now!
Click HERE to see a photo of a colourful panel that the previous owner of the Grotto, Mrs Eileen Heigl, painstakingly made (including collecting all the correct shells first!) to show how beautiful it would have looked.
Here are some more photos taken on our new digital camera – still practising!! :
The exactness of all the lines was astounding – it is hard to imagine how long it must have taken to complete – and how they started going about it! Guess they must have had to plan it right down to the last shell!?:
The way that the shells were stuck on their sides was effective – especially in the flower designs:
Here is the plan of the tunnels that you get given at the entrance to the Grotto – with some interpretation of the patterns – and some more history/facts too:
The Altar Chamber at the end of the tunnel was quite a big room – and in there we also found some early graffiti – most of it dated pre 1960 – with one even dated 1883!
And all this for just £3 per person!