070629.Bath, Grotto, Grottos, Everywhere…

June 29, 2007 at 1:45 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Chisel Marks, Gardens & Parks, Monuments and Memorials, river, River Avon, Ruins, somerset | 5 Comments

Delia’s Grotto, Bath: [1. Elizabeth A. Linley, 2. Richard B. Sheridan, 3. The Grotto for Scandal, 4. History of Delia’s Grotto 5. Design and Brief Context]
Grotto2
Delia’s Grotto seems to be designed around the proportions of a contained separate bench, which fits two comfortably. At a human level, it offers minimal protection from the elements, with a depth that barely protects the legs of sitters from a straight downpour. The grotto’s riverside façade is composed with vermiculated rusticated blocks, executed in the finest quality. The arch spanning the façade is rusticated in this style but launched from protruding untextured ashlars. The protruding dropped keystone is also not rusticated but connects to the top of the pediment. Lacking a cornice, the molded pediment rests on ashlar blocks and is surmounted by a statueless Paladian pedestal, which is aligned with the keystone and resembles a chimney.

[Below: Stowe’s Grotto before and after alteration that transformed it from a formal folly into a more naturalistic ruin…]
Copy (2) of Grotto Stowe
Copy of Grotto at Stowe1
In the American state that lays claim to the world’s smallest church, the Iowan town of West Bend features the world’s largest grotto. This not only continues a nineteenth-century religious-themed tradition of Marian grottos but also demonstrates the folly legacy of such structures. Although many famed grottos are naturally formed caves, the grotto as an architectural folly, though shown in numerous guises throughout England and the continent, shares two common characteristics: intimacy and rustication. The rustication may be created either with whimsical classical architectural ruin details or sometimes with simple facades of natural stone.

070104.25.Somset.BathCopy of details

All grottos are exposed to the elements, and many feature water in their design. The grotto in the Boboli Gardens, Florence, which was begun by Vasari and completed by Ammanati and Buontalenti between 1583 and 1593, features an apse of natural volcanic rock enclosing a fountain and water-themed statuary. Stourhead’s deliberately dark and dank cavernous space features Neptune presiding over a pool and a nymph reclining over a cascade [immediately above]. The originally symmetrical Dido’s Cave (built in the 1730s and renamed in the 1800s as the Marchioness of Buckingham’s Seat) at Stowe had its original façade removed in the 1800s and its structure transformed into a ruin by being partially buried under rubble and clad in tufa stones bolted on over the original 1730s classical details with metal clasps.[1]
Copy of 070104.22.Somset.Bath
The vermiculated rustication on Delia’s Grotto is of the finest nature [pictured above], being of a much higher quality in Bath then at Baldwin’s Guildhall or Baldwin and Palmer’s Pump Room ground stories, and also Wood’s hidden rustication behind the Hospital of St. John’s doorway. Such a high quality of rusticated treatment indicates the classical garden building’s ruined state within nature. Similarly the unusual protruding dropped keystone evokes the image of a time–worn, loosened arch.

Below: Protruding dropped keystones in descending formality of Delia’s Grotto, Stowe’s Temple of Friendship, Stowe’s Dido’s Cave, and Stowe’s Grotto
Delia's Grotto Keystone
detailsDido's Cave keystoneGrotto at Stowe keystone
These architectural peculiarities and higher degree of quality in particular areas fits well into the genre of folly architecture, which “with their whimsical pertinence and contemporaneously fashionable design were often constructed in avant-garde styles.” Often times these structures were the architectural innovations of their day since their modest size, cost, and design effort favored novelty.[2] The low cost of garden buildings lent themselves to experimentation since “new styles could never attract the same financial commitment as buildings in an established taste.” The after effects of low budget and experimental designs often meant that few of the successful designs survived. Great variety exists in all forms of garden buildings, in part because flops could be “easily demolished with little financial loss,” and new construction could commence with an enlightened design. [3]


Cited Above:

[1] Stowe: A Description of the Magnificent House and Garden, etc. (Buckingham: B. Seeley, 1783), 17. See also James Elliott, Visit to Stowe Landscape Garden, Information Packet (MSc), (Bath: University of Bath, 2003), 9.
[2] Alistair Rowan, Garden Buildings (Feltham, Middlesex: Country Life Books, The Hamlyn House Group, 1968), 2, 3, 11.
[3] Ibid, 11.
[Apart from original condition of Dido’s Cave, all drawings in this post were by the author…(me).]

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  1. […] A. Linley, 2. Richard B. Sheridan, 3. The Grotto for Scandal, 4. History of Delia’s Grotto 5. Design and Brief Context] Although it is in back of John Wood the Elder’s well ordered 1740s North Parade houses, the […]

  2. tes dessins sont superbes, de tres belles peintures. bravo. bon weekend

    your drawings are superb, of very beautiful paintings. cheer. good weekend

  3. i chanced upon one such thing in lyme regis once, and on further inspection (reading the plaque) it was an old hospital for leprosy. i immediately felt queasy and ran off gasping for clean air. it was rather unsettling to say the least young jam-zee

  4. ooo you sketch too, you are clever.

    i like the rustication pic.
    (and the word rustication, i shall have to try and use it myself)

  5. Copy his statement down and then continue the mini-play by telling what Lee says and just how Jason responds as to the Lee says. ‘ Authenticity is just not achieved by the writer’s simply if you know his story is ‘the actual way it really happened.


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