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Listed Building record MDR12281 - Calke Abbey Grotto, Calke Park, Calke

Type and Period (1)

  • (Georgian - 1809 AD to 1810 AD)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

The Grotto in the former Pleasure Ground at Calke Abbey is a listed building of 1809-1810 by Samuel Brown. It is constructed of red brick faced in tufa and of rubble sandstone and is a half-domed structure sunk into a hollow, with the remains of stalagmites and stalactites. There is a semi-circular enclosure in front formed of boulders and rubblestone. A curved path leads down into the grotto which has two rustic arches of rubblestone. The domed structure is grass covered and rises to a height of 4.7m from the base of the structure which is flooded and appears to be fed by a lead pipe at the back of the dome. The presence of a metal hinge within the passage suggests that at one time it held a metal gate. Review of the site in July 1987 found it to be in reasonable condition, although vegetation was encroaching upon it and the pond needed clearing. It was noted that the curved passage leading to the grotto needed to be rebuilt. (1) The Grotto at Calke Abbey stands to the north-east of the house at the edge of the east lawn in the area formerly known as the Pleasure Gardens. It was constructed in 1809-1810 by the architect Samuel Brown as a Gothic folly to inspire and impress visitors and is the only one of three Gothic features designed by him in the gardens to have survived. It is first shown in detail on a plan of 1857 where it appears much as it does today, with a half-domed structure and open auditorium to the north-east side. By the later 19th and early 20th century the Grotto was no longer used as a recreational building and appears to have been mis-used as a dumping ground for a while. Early accounts explain how the Grotto was originally intended to be used, as a place to shelter from the sun or rain and to admire minerals and fossils set into its walls. It was probably also a place for the visitor to discover and explore, barely visible from the ground, with the cave concealed even further by ivy and draping vegetation. The pond would have reflected the polished stones and shells in the ceiling. In 2009 the National Trust commissioned a survey of the Grotto, to preserve a record of the structure and to inform its future conservation, management and re-use. The work included a full laser scan survey together with both a black and white and a colour digital photographic record. It also included a geological report, which showed that all the stone and crystal deposits used for the enrichment of the grotto can be found within a short distance of Calke Abbey. Where these have survived, they include quartz, gypsum crystals, pyrites, ironstone, a small quantity of shell and a single piece of poor quality amethyst. (2)

Sources/Archives (2)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Marshall, G & Walker, J (The National Trust). 1988. The National Trust Archaeological Survey: Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, Volume 1, Estate Survey. p 119.
  • <2> Unpublished document: Watson, C & Simons, E (AOC Archaeology). 2009. The Calke Abbey Grotto, Ticknall, Derbyshire. Historic Building Report. HER Doc. No. 1300.



Grid reference Centred SK 3698 2269 (25m by 26m)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (1)

  • EDR2805

Please contact the HER for details.

External Links (0)

Record last edited

Jan 26 2024 10:02PM

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