The Ship on Shore Grotto

Marina Parade
United Kingdom
ME12 2BX
Telephone: 01795 662880

The Grotto started life as a small hut that was used as a canteen and guard room by soldiers who were guarding the French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic War. The Prisoners were engaged in digging the canal which stretched across the island from Barton's Point to Westminster and was known as the Queensborough Lines. The hut was later enlarged to become the Beer House of a shanty town that was located in this area during the building of Barton's Point Fort, now the Catamaran Yacht Club and a battery of four guns that were removed in the 1960s, opposite the present day 'Ship on Shore'. The area between Cheyney Rock and Barton's Point is still called the 'Shant' but Sheernessians.

Pictures sequencing above:
1. 'The Ship on Shore' tavern sign.
2. Grotto door.
3,4,5. Walls made from beach debris and Portland cement barrel contents.

The Ship on Shore tavern and grotto.

During the construction of the fortifications, when steamships were in their infancy, a small craft call the 'Lucky Escape' laden with barrels of cement to be used for these buildings, floundered during a north-east gale. Pounded by heavy seas she grounded on the beach and her cargo of cement ruined when she could not be re-floated.

When first built the grotto was on the sea shore but now there is a high sea wall.

The Coastguards, who patrolled the shores at this time from Garrison Point Fort to Leysdown erected a shelter or grotto using the set cement salvaged from the wreck together with other rocks and stones for building materials from the beach.

The grotto remained an open shelter for many years.

The 'Lucky Escape' figurehead and stern badge were placed on top of the grotto for ornamentation. The grotto became a useful night shelter for the Coast Guards and then with further enhancement served the beer house. About the year 1840 Messrs Flint and Co. had acquired the site and erected licensed premises. The new weather boarded building included a public and saloon bar.

The tavern and grotto proved a popular port of call for the townsfolk and visitors alike. 'The Ship on Shore' as it is now known has subsequently changed brewers and been altered several times, but always retaining its unique character. Over time the figureheads that adorned the roof have decayed and been removed. Also the wall furthest from the tavern, which was almost entirely made of cement barrel contents, collapsed and has been replaced by a timber wall. The grotto otherwise has remained much as it was 140 years ago and is now a Grade II listed building. The grotto is not open to the public but the adjoining restaurant and bar is.

The grotto in 2015.

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The grotto shown on the 1891 OS map.


On private property, Open set times only


Access all Year, Access by Road, Access on Foot, Grotto - just one, Restaurant/Food, Toilets


Coastal, Island


England - Southern, Not Regional


+A created provenance that links it to ancient mythology or legend, +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, GRADED FIVE

(C)Copyright The Spas Research Fellowship. To contact the SRF, email: srf@thespas.co.uk or mail to: Tower House, Tower Road, Tadworth, Surrey. KT20 5QY. UK