P R O F I L E
Conference and business centre
Telephone: 01306 730000
Wotton House comprises 13 acres of Grade II listed grounds and buildings. In the gardens there are several structures that will enthral the grotto enthusiast, including two traditional grottoes.
1. The Temple
2. The statue in the Temple
3. The Garden Grotto
4. The Tortoise House
5. The Fernery Grotto
6. The Fernery Grotto inspection
7. The Fernery Grotto fountain with shells
8. The Fernery Grotto mystic pool
9. The Fernery Grotto roof light
The site history can be traced back to 1086, just after the Norman Conquest, when it was recorded in the Doomsday Book as a moated manor house. Thereafter it was owned by a series of families until 1579 when it was purchased by the Evelyn dynasty. Much of their income was based on the local gunpowder industry, for the making of which they enjoyed a Royal monopoly. John Evelyn, the famous diarist was born at Wotton in 1620. At the age of 69 he inherited the house following the death of his brother Richard. It was John Evelyn who initiated much of the Italianate design of the gardens in conjunction with his brother George, This resulted in a new style that superseded the traditional Tudor approach to the garden layout. Also during the 17th century extensive alterations were made to the house. There followed a steady development of the house and gardens which proceeds to this day. The front of the house for example looks Tudor or Jacobean but is in fact Victorian. The house remains with the Evelyn family and the present Lord of the Manor and owner of Wotton is Patrick Evelyn.
Since the Second World War the house has been used for a variety of purposes. For 10 years it was a fire service college and then a BT training centre until 1986. It is now a business and conference centre with extensive accommodation.
Exploration of the gardens yields the following structures of interest:
The Garden Grotto Shelter
Built of Pulhamite, this is located close to the rear of the house, by the Accommodation Wing. It affords a small covered shelter above ground for those promenading in the gardens.
The Fernery Grotto (picture above)
This impressive construction is a traditional, above ground grotto which is charmingly located at the end of the house adjacent to the Conference Wing. The Tillingbourne stream alongside is pooled in the vicinity of the grotto and the external rockwork provides the fernery. The grotto is built of Pulhamite and comprises a main chamber with central pillar and roof light; a passage around the rear with rock arches and a stepped pathway over the top. Inside there is what appears to be a mystic pool that was unfortunately dry when the Minstrels of Mythology visited. A nearby fountain incorporates the traditional grotto shells in its design.
The Temple Hill (picture above)
From the rear of the house, the gardens direct ones eye to the Temple Hill which is aligned central and facing the main Reception Building. A fountain tempts the onlooker to explore what is beyond in the form of a columned temple built into the terraced hillside. Steps enable visitors to climb the hill but below, the temple itself reveals a goddess statue and niches all of which once had water features incorporated in their design.
Tortoise House Garden
Last but not least the Tortoise House garden reveals another temple type structure that presumably once housed tortoises that would have had the freedom of the walled garden to roam at will. Now it is used for weddings, where it affords shelter from the elements for those celebrating.
More details of the history of the grottoes and Pulhamite rockwork, which dates from around 1896/7, can be found by clicking the rock smasher left.
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GREAT BRITISH GROTTO GRADING
Not open to the public
Access by Road, Grottoes - more than one, Hotel or B and B Facilities, Restaurant/Food, Weddings venue
Park or Garden, Rural
England - Southern
THE FEATURES PRESENT
+Cared for and maintained in good condition, +Dark and mysterious chambers and cave like spaces, +External rock structures, either real or simulated, +Fossils and/or shells incorporated into the decor, +Internal stonework that is natural, recycled or simulated to give a subterranean decor, +Sacred spring or integral water feature, +Stunning setting and location, GRADED SEVEN