Deepdene Garden renovations begin – the Grotto

The exciting renovations at Deepdene Gardens began last month.

Universal Stone expert stonemasons have made great steps already in works on the key architectural features of the Deepdene Gardens – especially the Grotto.

The Grotto – background

The Grotto at the top of the Gardens began life as a failed tunnel into the hill ordered by then owner of the Deepdene, Charles Howard in the 17th century. The intention was to tunnel through the hill to the far side to enjoy the views; however the sandy soil led to a collapse. Howard kept the entranceway and turned it instead into a Grotto with flint lined archways.

In Thomas Hope’s time this simple Grotto was extravagantly restyled. The flint was covered with brick and render interiors with small alcoves for statues, a decorative balustrade was erected above the vault and a statue of the Egyptian God Seti took pride of place.

In WWII the decorative area was repurposed probably as an ammunition store. The statues had been sold years before and the military installed new interior walls and frontage to contain their supplies.

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Interior of Grotto, Jan 2016. Photography with thanks to Alex Lyons.
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Exterior of Grotto, Jan 2016. Photography with thanks to Alex Lyons

The Grotto – repairs

Universal Stone began work to return the Grotto to how it looked in Thomas Hope’s time by first recovering the broken remains of the stone balustrade.

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Recovered stone balustrade

This remaining stone will be repaired and integrated into a replacement that will once again line the top of the vaulted Grotto. The vault itself was completely uncovered for assessment giving us a glimpse at the original structure.

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The exposed vault of the Grotto

Leaf litter was dug away from the exterior allowing us to see the extent of original walls and identify how far the balustrade extended to.

The WWII brick work has been recorded and carefully removed from the inside and from the entrance recreating the classic view of the Grotto as it was in Hope’s garden.

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The exposed interior of Hope’s Grotto.

The remaining stone is being sensitively repaired and we will keep as much of the 19th century fabric as possible.

The main structural work will be complete by the end of June and the garden renovations will be ready for visitors in September – we can’t wait!