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Shell Grotto Margate

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by Caroline Haack (subscribe)
Fine art student and freelance writer from Paris, living in London.
Published May 2nd 2017
Margate's secret mystery

If you happen to be in Margate for a little seaside trip or for your holidays and you are getting bored of the windy beach and of the cute little shops, the town has a one of its kind place to visit. Indeed, not more than an 8 minutes walk from the beach, you can visit the Shell Grotto, a mysterious cave covered of shells, creating unique designs on the walls.

Entering the cave, you first go through a claustrophobic tunnel, with walls of cray. You then enter the actual tunnel of shells, with a circular passage leading to a small dome room. In there, the ceiling is open to the outdoor, to have some natural light to see the place better. Finally, you get in a ritual like room, where you understand the final piece of this grotto - the most mysterious one.

The Shell Grotto was discovered in 1835 when the owner of the house above it began development work but it appears that children knew about it before. However, if the passage was discovered in 1835, its existence is anterior. The thing is no one knows when. No scientist or archaeologist could date it or prove who decorated it and why. It is said to be from the Roman time or it could be a temple for a persecuted religion, but which one? Maybe it is a whim of a rich aristocrat of the eighteenth or nineteenth century following the fashion of decoration with shells, but why was it made subterranean? It is known, however, that the shells used are local species. More than millions were used.

My theory is that it is the work of a person of humble condition, who wanted to secretly offer himself the illusion of luxury like Ferdinand Cheval and his 'Ideal Palace' in France. The only thing is it would have been the work of a lifetime, knowing the number of shells.
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Phone: 01843 220008
Where: Grotto Hill Margate Kent CT9 2BU
Cost: 4.00 for adults, 3.50 for concessions, 1.50 for children (aged 4-16)
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