Shell Grotto @ Margate


Last month when I took my trip to Margate to attend the Grayson Perry opening at the Turner Contemporary, I also visited a magical place called the Shell Grotto. Until searching for places to stay in Margate I had never even heard of this mystical underground cave, yet all of the hotels and B&B’s online boasted about being walking distance from this hidden gem. So, of course, I had to check it out for myself when I did arrive in Margate.

The Shell Grotto is an underground chamber of several rooms and passages, whose walls are encrusted with 4.6 million shells, all tightly displayed together. They resemble a mosaic in mural form. Among the shells, geometric patterns and hearts are made visible, adding to the splendor and wonder of the seemingly magical space.

You may be asking how the Shell Grotto came into existence; however, nobody would be able to tell you. The Grotto was discovered in 1835 while a duck pond was being created and it was as much a mystery then as it is now.

The fact that the history of the grotto is a mystery only adds to its splendor. While I can’t enlighten you about its creation, I can tell you of its beauty. The walled display of whelks, cockles, mussels and oysters all enchant the viewer in its underground home, in a different sense to how we might view them when found lying on the beach.

Next time you are in Margate, or plan a trip to the Turner Contemporary, I strongly urge you to visit the Shell Grotto, I promise that you won’t regret it!

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier aka Gallery Girl is a writer and curator based in London. Her work has been featured in publications including Dazed, Hyperallergic and Vogue Arabia. She was curator of Perpetual Movement during AWAN Festival 2018 and in 2019 had a residency at the Lab at Darat Al Funun in Amman, Jordan. She has also worked with Armenia Art Fair for its inaugural edition and previously worked as an editor at I.B.Tauris Publishers. In 2019 she co-founded Arsheef, Yemen’s first contemporary art gallery. She has given workshops at Manara Culture in Amman, Jordan and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. As of 2020 she is currently in law school, with the ambition of greater understanding the intersection between art and the law.

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