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Latitude: 53.0767 / 53°4'35"N
Longitude: -1.1915 / 1°11'29"W
OS Eastings: 454259
OS Northings: 353576
OS Grid: SK542535
Mapcode National: GBR 8G4.5L6
Mapcode Global: WHDG5.NXTR
Entry Name: Grotto in Fern Garden
Listing Date: 29 November 2016
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1436832
Location: Newstead, Gedling, Nottinghamshire, NG15
Civil Parish: Newstead
Traditional County: Nottinghamshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Nottinghamshire
Church of England Parish: Ravenshead
Church of England Diocese: Southwell and Nottingham
Fernery grotto built c.1864.
Fernery grotto built c.1864.
MATERIALS: variously sized and irregularly laid stone partially coated with cement, and interior lining of Derbyshire tufa calcareous.
PLAN: it is located in the northern part of the fernery on the west side of the central path.
EXTERIOR: the grotto is built into the bank and is relatively small. It is roughly formed and rustic in character, as befits a grotto. It has two openings in which the cement is formed to create a dripping effect on the soffits, an effect also used in the interior.
Newstead Abbey was founded as a priory between 1163 and 1173. After the Dissolution it was surrendered to Henry VIII in 1539 and acquired by Sir John Byron in 1540. The fifth Sir John Byron was created Lord Byron in 1643 by Charles I. In the early C18 the gardens and ponds were laid out for the fourth Lord Byron. William, the fifth Lord Byron (1722-98), known as the Wicked Lord, who succeeded to the title in 1736, had two castellated forts built in the early C18 but neglected the estate towards the end of his life, and the woodland was stripped of its trees to raise money to pay debts. His great-nephew, the poet George Gordon (1788-1824) became the sixth Lord Byron but due to remaining debts on the estate he had to sell the Abbey. In 1817 it was purchased by Colonel Thomas Wildman who commissioned John Shaw to make additions between 1818 and c.1830 when the gardens were also altered. On Wildman’s death in 1860 the Abbey was sold to William F. Webb with more building and laying out of gardens taking place during his family’s ownership. The Abbey was sold by Mr Webb’s grandson to Sir Julian Cahn who presented it to the City of Nottingham in 1931, and it remains in local authority ownership (2016).
The Fernery was laid out around 1864 by the head gardener Mr Anderson under the direct supervision of Mrs William Frederick Webb (1826-1889) who, along with her daughters Geraldine and Ethel, also introduced Venetia’s Garden, the Spanish Garden and the Japanese Garden. According to Victorian guidebooks, the banks of the fernery were ‘built up of rough stones of various sizes, placed so as to admit of the ferns being arranged in the proper manner’. Pulhamite rock was also used, and some of the old carved stones probably came from the ruins of the priory church. In a souvenir of Newstead Abbey from 1874, the fernery is described as containing ‘every known specimen of the genus crytogramic’ and displaying ‘great knowledge of the nature, habits, and character of the plants themselves; an eye to the beautiful, in grouping; and a highly cultivated and classical taste in the conception of the grottoes. […] As a whole, we doubt if there is a more interesting, well arranged, or complete fernery and rockery combined, in England.’ The Derbyshire tufa that lines the interior of the grotto was widely used for this purpose in Victorian grottoes.
The Newstead Abbey fernery grotto, built in the 1860s, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: it is a well-preserved and fascinating representation of the fern craze, one of the defining horticultural interests of the Victorian period;
* Design interest: it is an excellent example of a fernery structure in an appropriately rustic design intended to invoke the original primeval setting of ferns which had emerged around 130 million years before the first dinosaurs;
* Rarity: it is a rare example from the Victorian period when grottoes appeared less frequently in garden design;
* Group value: it has strong group with the fernery wall and with the many listed buildings at Newstead Abbey, and forms an intrinsic element in the historic Grade II* registered park.
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