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. It was badly damaged, with only the outer walls remaining.
THANKS TO HOLT...
Over the last 137 years since, a vast amount of reports have been written and proposals put forward on the Grotto’s future. None has been taken forward and in 2020 the Grotto was still on the Heritage at Risk register. HOLT has now kick started its restoration, commissioning an urgent condition survey on the landing stage which is collapsing and risks collapse of the whole structure, raising £24,000 in funding and working closely with the City of London and Friends of Wanstead Parklands to get an urgent works project up and running. Proud Places visits and the repair work have now both begun.