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HER Number:MDV32107
Name:Shell House and Grotto, Endsleigh, Milton Abbot


Small round summerhouse with a grotto attached. Built circa 1810 for the display of fossils, minerals and shells. Probably designed by Sir Humphry Repton as part of his overall design for the gardens.


Grid Reference:SX 392 784
Map Sheet:SX37NE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishMilton Abbot
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishMILTON ABBOT

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX37NE/514/8
  • Old Listed Building Ref (I)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • SUMMERHOUSE (Built, XIX - 1810 AD to 1810 AD)

Full description

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV230915.

Doe/hhr:milton abbot/(7/11/1985)127.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV230916.

Gray, t. /the garden history of devon/(1995).

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV230917.

Des=dyer, m. J. + manning, p. T. /objective 5b: lower tamar valley recreation + land management initiative: cultural heritage appraisal/(1998)23/ea report 98.60.

Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV230918.

Hhr:register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in england(devon)/(august 2003).

Dyer, M. + Manning, P., Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV27135.

Polygonal summerhouse probably designed by repton (dyer + manning).

Department of Environment, Untitled Source (Migrated Record). SDV330395.

The shell house and grotto circa 1810. Summerhouse for the display of fossils, crystals, minerals and shells and adjoining grotto. Stone rubble summerhouse of diverse stones including quartz, shells embedded in the mortar. Pyramidal slate roof. Stone rubble grotto. Picturesque. Small cobbled area in front of summerhouse. Some 20th century replacement of shells. Seven triangular lunette windows. See doe list for full details (doe).

Marlow, P. O., 2013, Cobbles in Devon, 55, Fig. 12d (Article in Serial). SDV358513.

Endsleigh retains many areas of decorative cobbling including at the shell grotto.

Ordnance Survey, 2019, MasterMap 2019 (Cartographic). SDV362729.

Small circular building depicted.

Historic England, 2019, National Heritage List for England, 1326346 (National Heritage List for England). SDV362730.

The Shell House and Grotto.
Summerhouse for the display of fossils crystals, minerals and shells and adjoining grotto. Circa 1810 for the 6th Duke of Bedford, probably by Humphry Repton. Stone rubble summerhouse of diverse stones including quartz, shells embedded in the mortar. Pyramidal slate roof with lead joints and 7 gablets. Stone rubble grotto. The summerhouse is round on plan on a spectacular site overlooking the Tamar. A deep stone rubble wall to the north is pierced by a segmental archway with a cut stone arch forming a short tunnel; a second tunnel leads off the first forming a grotto and then an open pathway round the side of the summerhouse. A small cobbled area in front of the summerhouse commands views of the valley below.
Picturesque. Single- storey summerhouse, approximately circular with a rough buttress to the left of the doorway which has a segmental pointed head and a half-glazed door with 2 lights with stained glass above a rustic stick construction for the lower half. 7 triangular lunette windows in the gablets have spiders web leading. 2 segmental pointed 2-light windows on the south side have stained glass in ornamental leaded panes and overlook the valley.
Interior A groin vault roof is encrusted with shells and fossils. Internally, the summerhouse is hexagonal, 2 bays to the windows, 1 to the door, the other 3 consisting of recesses with stone benches, the walls entirely lined with fossils and shells laid in patterns of subtle design with some C20 replacement. Small cobbles and tiles form a hexagonal star pattern on the floor which has a small central pool.
The summerhouse and grotto are part of the garden architecture of Endsleigh House (formerly Endsleigh Cottage) which was designed by Sir Jeffry Wyatville for the 6th Duke of Bedford. Christopher Hussey attributes the summerhouse to Repton, quoting a reference from the Endsleigh Red Book to a "quarry which might be converted into a grotto-like receptacle for specimens of the fossils and ores abounding in the neighbourhood," although Carter, Goode and Laurie do not mention the summerhouse or grotto in their description of Repton's proposals for Endsleigh. Endsleigh House and its surrounding have been described as of "unique historical and artistic significance" (Hussey). Christopher Hussey, Country Life, CXXX, 246; CXXX, 296. George Carter, Patrick Goode and Kedroun Laurie, Humphry Repton Landscape Gardener 1752 - 1818 (1982). Humphry Repton, Red Book, September and October 1814, Woburn Abbey Humphry Repton (with John Adey Repton), Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening Including some Remarks on Grecian and Gothic Architecture (1816).
Date first listed: 6th October 1982

Sources / Further Reading

SDV230915Migrated Record:
SDV230916Migrated Record:
SDV230917Migrated Record:
SDV230918Migrated Record:
SDV27135Migrated Record: Dyer, M. + Manning, P..
SDV330395Migrated Record: Department of Environment.
SDV358513Article in Serial: Marlow, P. O.. 2013. Cobbles in Devon. Devon Buildings Group Newsletter. A4 Stapled + Digital. 55, Fig. 12d.
SDV362729Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2019. MasterMap 2019. Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping. Digital. [Mapped feature: #119119 ]
SDV362730National Heritage List for England: Historic England. 2019. National Heritage List for England. Historic Houses Register. Digital. 1326346.

Associated Monuments: none recorded

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events: none recorded

Date Last Edited:Jul 31 2019 2:56PM