Mysterious Shell Grotto. England
Shell Grotto was discovered in 1835 in the town of Margate, Kent, England. Despite the fact that existence of the Grotto has long been known, its origin still remains unsolved. Today this unique architectural monument is one of the most mysterious attractions of Great Britain.
The Shell Grotto is an underground passageway, a winding corridor, whose walls are richly decorated with 4.6 million shells. Its length is more than 20 meters. The height is about 2.4 meters and the length – 21 meters. The underground tunnel ends by a rectangular room measuring 5 x 6 meters. It is called as The Altar Chamber. Around the middle of the tunnel there is a massive pillar of rotunda. Almost the entire surface of walls and ceiling of the Grotto is covered with a mosaic of shells with a total area of 190 square meters.
Actually, like all mysterious in our world, the grotto was discovered quite accidentally. When the Englishman James Newlove was digging an artificial pond for his ducks, he stumbled upon an unknown object. His son Joshua was the first who went down into the underground passage and saw the enigmatic tunnel, decorated with mosaics of seashells. The Englishman wasn’t taken aback, and quickly realized how lucky he was. He installed gas lamps and generally equipped the grotto for visiting. Three years later, Mr. Newlove opened the grotto for tourists as a local landmark. Like all new and unknown, the tunnel attracted a considerable amount of prying eyes – a wave of tourists gushed to Margate.
Until that moment, it was impossible to find the grotto on any map. Therefore, no one knew about the nature of its origin. Hot debates gave rise to a variety of versions: the legacy of antiquity, the place of a secret society or cult. Some scientists associate this place with the Templars, the others – with the ancient Phoenicians. In addition to destination of the tunnel, people have tried to understand the meaning of those outlandish mosaics. The shells are lined by the abstract patterns, although someone sees certain figures and images. It was assumed that they could be a sacrificial altar, or images of gods and goddesses, there were even some versions showing that was a tree of life.
Neither version has been proven. The purpose of the construction is still unknown, and various theories about its creation range in spread within 3,000 years. Radiocarbon analysis hasn’t helped to establish the age of the Shell Grotto. Several factors have prevented this, including soot on the shells, accumulated over the lifetime of the tunnel. The fact is that the Victorian lamps which were used in the 1800s for illumination of the attraction have caused such blackening in consequence of the long use. In addition, the surfaces are under constant influence of water and moisture. Moreover, the grotto was reconstructed several times. Some decorations were damaged during installation of lighting; in addition, the grotto has suffered during the Second World War by a bomb strike.
Today, the Shell Grotto is completely renovated. Anyone can visit this place and feel such a renowned mystery and a special atmosphere. Millions of shells of clams, oysters and mussels on the walls still attract tourists. Indeed, this marine treasure trove will hardly leave anyone indifferent. Near the entrance you will find a souvenir shop and a cafe.