The Margate Grotto remains a mystery to residents of this picturesque seaside city in Kent.
This dark, haunting grotto lies towards the back of a small museum and cafe where tourists from all over the world visit to wander passageways of mosaic shells.
But nobody knows who is responsible for the artwork, which uses 4.6 million shells.
The grotto — now protected under law — is owned by Sarah Vickery, who snapped up the property in 2001. But even she doesn’t have a clue how or why the seashell grotto exists.
“It drives people nuts”, she says of the grotto’s unknown history.
“They insist that we must know, there must be documentation. But there isn’t. We have no idea of its history before it was found. Its discovery seems to have come as a great surprise to people in Margate”.
Some believe it is an ancient pagan temple. Others say it could’ve been a meeting place for a secret cult.
Then there are those who believe it to be a smuggler’s cave from years gone by.
Whatever it was before a tourist destination, it was obviously created with great effort.
Most of the shells from the grotto are native to the British Isles — mussels, whelks, oysters, cockles, limpets, and razor shells.
Shells that are exotic to the area include the queen conches from the Caribbean, located by the altar.
The grotto was first discovered in the 1830s and has welcomed visitors since. There’s even an ongoing restoration project to recreate parts of missing mosaics in the passageways.
Gotta see it in person? I don’t blame you. Check out all the info on the Margate Grotto here.