Wiltshire is home to some stunning shell houses, grottoes and period architecture. Below you can explore all that it has to offer.
The Manor House and gardens at Belcombe Court have various 18th century stations including a Temple, Cottage Ornee, ornamental pond and rusticated Grotto. This limestone tufa grotto was constructed by Joseph and Josiah Lane in the early 1770’s and contains their signature use of ammonites and stalactites.
The main house and gardens were developed by Bernard Dickenson from 1796. The naturalistic grotto tunnels flank a summer house with neo- medieval lattice windows of coloured glass. This impressive structure was built and possibly decorated by Josiah Lane c1790. The interior shell work was restored in 1987 by Stephen Bushell
The Picturesque landscape was designed by Henry Hoare “ The Magnificent” from c1740. The rusticated grotto 1748 with statues of Ariadne and Neptune was a favourite feature of the owner. In the Pantheon are four benches by Henry Flitcroft and decorated with murals by William Hoare of Bath. One painting shows the birth of Venus on a scallop shell.
The College is Victorian but the Shell House c1720 is set into the ancient Merlin’s Mound. Its creator the Duchess of Hertford also installed the perambulatory walk to the top of the Mound. A very early example of an 18th century garden feature, the Shell House was used as a retreat for literati and decorated with random bursts of native shells. Viewing by appointment only.
Old Wardour Castle
Josiah Lane was working on the grotto at Old Wardour by 1792 for Lord Arundell. This is an impressive 30’ high structure of limestone tufa within the Bailey of the old castle. There are no seats nor shell decoration- the building was used purely as a romantic ruin to contrast with the castle fabrique.
This early neo-Palladian house - c1710 - has two 18th century grottoes. An early flint grotto is set within a mound surrounded by natural woodland. The octagonal Temple, sits over a smaller flint grotto. Both structures have characteristics linking them to the work of the Lanes of Tisbury. Major restoration work undertaken in 21st century. Located near Amesbury.
Owners Elizabeth and John Cartwright. The Shell pavilion sits in a walled garden. Created by Elizabeth in the 1960's. The design uses green glazed ceramics and native shells telling the a narrative of darkness and light with the Green Man and Fauna as central figures. (The Shell House is private and not open to visitors).
At Fonthill there are two points of interest.
First, Fonthill East, a lakeside grotto -the work of Josiah Lane (from 1784). Shell decorated with stalactites, font and seating.
Secondly, Fonthill Hermitage and Folly, which sits on the West bank and once held statues of Bacchus and Merlin. Ammonite and niche features.