Goldney Grotto in Hotwells, England

In the Clifton area of Bristol is Goldney Hall, a grand mansion built in 1724 and currently used as one of the University of Bristol’s dormitories. Its gardens are home to an orangery, a gothic tower, a mysterious Hercules statue, and a shell-lined grotto, often considered the finest example from the 18th century.

The Goldney Grotto, as it is commonly known, was created circa 1739 and designated as a Grade I listed building by English Heritage. The centerpiece of the Goldney Gardens, this exotic shell grotto is the only one in Britain that has a shell room and running water.

The grotto consists of three chambers, including a pillared hall and a “lion’s den” with life-size plaster sculptures of a lion and a lioness. It is decorated with over 200 species of shell collected from far and wide, such as the Caribbean and African waters, as well as faux stalactites made from Bath stone and pieces of “Bristol Diamonds,” a unique kind of quartz found in the area.

The gardens and the grotto are usually closed off to the public, only open for the garden tour organized by the university, typically held on select dates from April to September.

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