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shell grotto mosaics: margate, england

Shell Grotto was discovered by farmer James Newlove on his property in 1835 when he and his son Joshua found a hole that appeared in their garden. The remarkable find is rumored to have been built by the mysterious Knights Templar as far back as a millenium ago, the cave consists of a long subterranean passage that ends in a large rectangular chamber with an adjacent rotunda. The entire grotto is coated with beautiful mosaics made from over 4.6 million seashells.

The entire complex was unknown until this hole appeared, but on exploring the caves they found the rooms embedded with shells in every wall in various patterns and spread over a cave network of 2000 square feet.

No one has been able to answer the main questions of who built this. A lot of care has gone into positioning of the shells which cover the walls and ceilings of the caves in mosaic patterns and whoever did this also carved out archways making many suspect this was some kind of temple. The Grotto was first opened to the public in 1837, having been 'discovered' two years previously.

At its heart is a central room with an encrusted tump that could be interpreted as an altar, approached down a passage and through a rotunda. The passages are qround eight feet high, and the length of the journey around eighty feet. In the central room an exit to the street has been boarded up. The surfaces of the Grotto are decorated with panels of shells in many ingenious patterns.

The Grotto site is supported as an English Heritage location, but is still under private ownership.

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