Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Date first listed:
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Hertfordshire (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TL 35688 13832


This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 02/08/2016

TL3513NE 829-1/13/161

WARE TOWN SCOTTS ROAD (West side) Scott's Grotto

(Formerly listed as Grotto between Nos.28 and 34 (not included)) 08/05/50 GV I Grotto, consisting of entrance porch, subterranean passages, light wells and air shafts, connecting with 6 chambers. Built between 1764 and 1768 by John Scott, the Quaker poet, of Amwell House (qv), and formerly in the garden of Amwell House, until 1863. Original porch demolished 1960. Grotto restored 1990-91 by the Ware Society, architect James Howley, when entrance porch reconstructed in a slightly modified form. This single storey building, with central door, flanking niches and pediment, breaking forward of a larger pediment with a semicircular fanlight and twin oculi, leads into the hillside. Entire building covered in flint, shells, stones, fossils, glass, over brick. INTERIOR: porch lit by vaulted rooflight, with 1990 reconstructed primitive `orders' of tree trunks forming entrances to the passages at left and right, and a central arched entrance, above which is set a small fragment of the Berlin Wall. The passages and chambers retain their original decorations intact, with the exception of the restored Council Chamber. The left hand passage leads downwards and turns left, with its line ahead continued in a long shell-covered ventilation shaft. Walls lined with flint, with niches decorated with shells, conches and minerals. Square and circular chambers (designated Committee Room No 2 and Refreshments Room by RT Andrews in 1900). The passage continues and turns right towards the circular Committee Room, decorated with ormer and oyster shells, which is linked to the entrance porch, the outer Consultation Room and the inner Robing Room by a long axial ventilation shaft. A curving left fork of the main passage turns and leads to the Robing Room, originally known as the Palm Pillar Room, due to its central timber column and radiating struts (all no longer extant). This is the deepest chamber 67 feet from the entrance and 34 feet below the summit of the hill. Irregular linear decoration of black knapped flint and silver ormers. The passage returns from this chamber, as a long flint-line corridor to the circular Council Chamber, 12 feet diameter, with a domed rooflight above, reconstructed 1990. This chamber has a pebble-patterned floor, and shell-lined walls, with 6 niches containing seats, decorated in patterns highlighted by silver ormer shells, restored 1990, following the originals. 50 different types of shells are used, with quartz, micaceous schist, Hertfordshire puddingstone, and vitreous clusters. Above a band of earl oyster shells, the surfaces of the shallow segmental vault and rooflight well are similarly decorated. A flight of steps returns to the porch. HISTORICAL NOTE: the grotto was well-known to visitors from its completion. Dr Samuel Johnson visited it in 1773 and described it as a `fairy hall'. Visitors Book 1779-1786 in Hertfordshire County Record Office. Part of the estate sold to the British Land Company in 1863, and Scotts Road was constructed. The grotto then came within the garden of a Victorian villa, `The Grotto' and remained on open land between Nos 28 and 34 Scott's Road, when these modern houses were built in 1966-1973. Gazebo and rustic seat (qv) associated with the grotto restored at the same time. The grotto is the most extensive of its type in England. (Heath C: The Book of Ware. A Portrait of the Town: Chesham: 1977: 105-6, 117-21; The Buildings of England: Pevsner N (rev. Cherry B): Hertfordshire: Harmondsworth: 1977: 32, 381-2; Perman D: Ware UD. List of buildings of special arch or historic interest: 1993: 56-7; Ware 25" to 1 Mile. Surveyed by the Ordnance Survey Department: 1851; East Herts Archaeological Society Transactions: Andrews RT: Scott's Grotto: Hertford: 1859-1901: 15-31; Headley G and Meulenkamp W: Follies. A National Trust Guide: London: 1986: 231, 232; Jones B: Follies and Grottoes: London: 1974: 169-71; Perman D: A New Guide to Scott's Grotto: Ware: 1991).

Listing NGR: TL3568813832


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Headley, , Meulenkamp, , Follies: A National Trust Guide, (1986), 231-2
Heath, C, The Book of Ware A Portrait of the Town, (1977), 105-6
Heath, C, The Book of Ware A Portrait of the Town, (1977), 117-21
Jones, B, Follies and Grottoes, (1974), 169-71
Perman, D, A New Guide to Scotts Grotto, (1991)
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, (1977), 32
Pevsner, N, Cherry, B, The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire, (1977), 381-2
'Transactions of the East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society' in Transactions of the East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society, (1899), 15-31
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Part 21 Hertfordshire,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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Date: 30 Aug 2000
Reference: IOE01/01240/05
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr A. Gude. Source Historic England Archive
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