23.08.2021 | Conservation, News

Grotto found at the bottom of the garden

Imagine tidying up the bottom of your garden and finding a gothic folly dating back to the mid 18th century. That is what happened to John Bostock this summer, 25 years after moving into his house in Edgbaston. The 12ft building is elaborately decorated with oyster shells, bones and teeth from cows and sheep.

Grotto found at the bottom of a garden in Edgbaston

Grotto decorated with shells, found in a garden in Edgbaston Photo © Advolly Richmond

Advolly Richmond, garden historian and GT member, went to see the discovery. She said: ‘I was completely astounded when I reached the bottom of the garden. Although I had already seen a picture on social media, I was certainly not expecting to see just how exquisite the detail would be. So many different types of shell, coloured glass, thousands of animal knuckle bones and what could well be sheep’s teeth. Obviously, further research is needed to date it more accurately but this is indeed a unique discovery and it is astonishing how it has remained hidden for so long.’

Detail of grotto showing oyster shell and animal bones

Detail of the interior showing shells and animal bones Photo © Advolly Richmond

Grotto probably built in a manor house garden

The grotto, more properly called a shell house, is believed to have been built as a folly by aristocrats in the gardens of the manor house that previously stood on the site. It had become completely overgrown with ivy, and the area had been left as a wildlife garden, with badgers living there.

Detail of pattern made of bones in the grotto

Detail of a pattern of animal bones inside the shell house Photo © Advolly Richmond

The discovery has prompted lots of interest, with Advolly Richmond and National Trust senior gardens advisor Pam Smith visiting the grotto and planning to do further research into its history. Pam Smith said: ‘Follies such as this are a great place to sit and also show the playfulness of garden creators of the past.’

The Bostocks are now moving on, so it is hoped that the new owners will also share their interest in caring for this remarkable garden building.

Report in Birmingham Metro