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Shell House Showcase: The Shell Grotto, Pontypool

The Shell Grotto, Pontypool, is a Grade II* listed late-18th-century slate roofed shell grotto decorated with shells and animal bones.


It stands within the boundary of Pontypool Park, Torfaen in South Wales and is considered to be the best surviving grotto in Wales, making it an important local landmark commanding views south towards the Severn Estuary.

The grotto was commissioned by John Hanbury as a hunting lodge/summerhouse in the late 18th century.


During the early 19th century, Capel Hanbury Leigh (1776 -1861) undertook renovations of the family house and park's grounds and it is thought that the interior was largely decorated by his wife Molly who was known to be an avid collector of shells.


The walls are decorated with wood, stalactites, crystals and local shells alongside the animal bones.


During it's time as a hunting lodge, it's thought that the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), is said to have picnicked at the grotto during a shoot in 1882.


It was restored in 1992-96.

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