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]
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…]
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.
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.
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
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. 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. 
 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.
 Alistair Rowan, Garden Buildings (Feltham, Middlesex: Country Life Books, The Hamlyn House Group, 1968), 2, 3, 11.
 Ibid, 11.
[Apart from original condition of Dido’s Cave, all drawings in this post were by the author…(me).]