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Overlooked Britain: Over the top in the underworld at Leeds Castle in Kent

Regulars | By Lucinda Lambton


As lavish a grotto as has ever been built in England is not, in fact, a confection of the 18th-century – when the fantastical fashion for such conceits in this country was at its height – but, rather, it dates from 1987. A scarcely believable spot, it is to be found at Leeds Castle in Kent.  Built as a public attraction, it is a triumph. Furthermore, it now seems, joy of joys, that creating these decorative fancies has once again become an ongoing trend to entice visitors.  Mostly, they are glittering restorations, such as at Painshill in Surrey – originally built in 1760 – as well as at Ware in Hertfordshire (1757). Margate in Kent, too, has a humdinger of a shell grotto that was rediscovered in 1835. In the garden at Goldney Hall in Bristol there is a beauty of 1739, re-encrusted with rare minerals, shells, rocks and fossils...


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