Wanstead Grotto

Restoration of the landing plinth.

An east London highlight, the Grotto is the 18th century survival of one of the grandest houses ever built in England, Wanstead House. Built on the edge of a lake between 1760 and 1764, the Grotto cost £2,000 and was spectacular. Lined with fossils, crystals and carved stone it was an entertainment space as well as an exotic eyecatcher in a period when grottoes and follies were in high fashion. After the house was demolished and it was opened to the public it was much visited and admired. However in 1884, a fire broke out in a storeroom and, because the lake in front was being cleaned and was empty, there was no water to extinguish it. The grotto was badly damaged, with only the outer walls remaining.

Over the last 137 years since, a vast amount of reports have been written and proposals put forward on the Grotto’s future. By 2020, it was on the Heritage at Risk register. HOLT has kick started its restoration, getting an urgent condition survey on the landing stage which is imminent risk of total collapse – risking the collapse of the whole structure – giving a grant, applying for further funding and working closely with the City of London and Friends of Wanstead Parklands to begin the necessary restoration work—now in progress.

To visit the Grotto, head to Wanstead Park E11 2LT, and enter from the south, via Northumberland Avenue.

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