Mysterious Shell Grotto open to inquiring public

The mysterious Shell Grotto is an ornate subterranean passageway in Margate, Kent where almost all the surface area of the walls and roof is covered in mosaics created entirely of seashells. Taking up 2,000 square feet of mosaic, or 4.6 million shells, it was discovered in 1835 but its age remains unknown.

A website for the Shell Grotto details the mystery:

“In 1835 Mr James Newlove lowered his young son Joshua into a hole in the ground that had appeared during the digging of a duck pond. Joshua emerged describing tunnels covered with shells. He had discovered the Shell Grotto; 70ft of winding underground passages leading to an oblong chamber, its walls decorated with strange symbols mosaiced in millions of shells. Is it an ancient pagan temple? A meeting place for some secret cult? Nobody can explain who built this amazing place, or why, or when, but since its discovery visitors from all over the world have been intrigued by the beautiful mosaic and the unsolved mystery.”


The Shell Grotto is on Grotto Hill, Margate, Kent, around five minutes’ walk from the seafront and a 20-minute walk from Margate Station (direct trains from London Victoria, Charing Cross and London Bridge). Open every day from Good Friday to Halloween from 10am-5pm, in the winter The Shell Grotto is open weekends only from 11am-4pm and is closed Christmas and New Year.
Admission prices are £3.00 for adults, £2.50 for seniors and students, £1.50 for children or £8 for a family ticket (two adults and two children). Children aged three and under are free.

Flickr photos by Mr Moss and Ben Sutherland