29 September 2010

What, When & Ware VII

In Scotts Road the houses, explains Janet Watson, jump from number 28 to number 34. When this modern development was laid out in the mid-1960s two houses were to be built on the land occupied by Scotts Grotto, the porch and the 'council chamber' roof of which were demolished before work was stopped.

Hidden behind inconspicuous wooden gates, the grotto is the largest in the UK, extending 67 feet into chalk hillside. There are six chambers, each lined with shells, flints, fossils and coloured glass, connected by passageways and air vents. The grotto, Grade I listed, was excavated over a period of 30 years in the eighteenth century for John Scott, the poet that in 1768 inherited Amwell House (YMGW passim). The council chamber is the most highly decorated section.

In the nineteenth century the grotto graced the grounds of a large house built on part of what had been Amwell House's pleasure gardens, and belonging to Mr Hanbury of Allen and Hanbury fame (YMGW passim). Basic repairs were executed in 1974. Between 1990 and 1991 the Ware Society oversaw a complete restoration, including replacement of the porch, re-roofing of the council chamber, and repair of the Grade II* listed octagonal summerhouse that sits atop the hill.

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