Search
  • margarethull8

Shell House showcase: The Goldney Grotto, Clifton, Bristol

During the 18th century subterranean Grottoes were a popular addition to the English landscape garden. They added a sense of mystery and surprise to the unsuspecting visitor.


Continuing the link with animal motifs and statuary within garden retreats I would like to explore one of Britain's best preserved shell grottoes:


The Goldney Grotto


Thomas Goldney," an early water-magi" began his ambitious grotto in 1737 -- adding an important element to his modest Pleasure Garden that included an Octagonal Belvedere, Gothic Water Tower and statue of Hercules (all still extant). The complex subterranean grotto was to take him 33 years to complete.





Dark tunnels lead to a main chamber decorated with over 200,000 exotic shells, shaped into grotesque animalistic features -- centipedes, owls, macaws and other imagined creatures. The designs are partly attributed to Goldney's sister, Anne, and a Mr Marwell.


Two lions appear from their own grotto, while Neptune reclining at the top of a cascade surveys his kingdom. The scene still has the power to fill the visitor with surprise and wonder!

15 views0 comments