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Remains of Grotto in Garden of Picton Castle

A Grade II Listed Building in Slebech, Pembrokeshire

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Latitude: 51.7851 / 51°47'6"N

Longitude: -4.8774 / 4°52'38"W

OS Eastings: 201627

OS Northings: 213519

OS Grid: SN016135

Mapcode National: GBR CP.YQV2

Mapcode Global: VH1RN.DDVD

Entry Name: Remains of Grotto in Garden of Picton Castle

Listing Date: 26 February 1998

Last Amended: 26 February 1998

Grade: II

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 19420

Building Class: Gardens, Parks and Urban Spaces

Location: 600 m E of Picton Castle

County: Pembrokeshire

Community: Uzmaston, Boulston and Slebech (Uzmaston, Boulston a Slebets)

Community: Slebech

Locality: Picton Park

Traditional County: Pembrokeshire

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The diary of Erasmus Philipps for May 1728 records that a design for a summer house was ' begun to be built' it notes that 'summer house' was 'sent from London by Mr [John] James, the surveyor, [but] not entirely followed'. The summer house or belvedere was erected for his father, Sir John Philipps (4th Baronet) on a mound about 600 m E of the Castle, at the end of a landscaped avenue. The building on the mound probably survived intact well into the C19: Fenton (1811) refers to the 'handsome belvedere', 'terminating an avenue facing the grand entrance to the castle'. Its outline is shown on the 1829 estate map, as a rectangle with an apsidal projection to the W. 'Remains of Belvedere' are also noted on the 1887 Ordnance Survey map and even on the current edition.

There now remains a blocked tunnel, on the avenue axis and entered at the W side of the mound, which was presumably a basement or grotto to the summer house or belvedere. The origin of the idea of the grotto probably lies in Roman or Italian garden landscaping, with which both Erasmus and his brother John were certainly familiar.


Mound containing vaulted tunnel, with entrance W. side. Summer house or belvedere probably originally surmounted the mound, but is now lost.


A tunnel about 10 m in length extending from the W side of the mound into its heart. The tunnel is above the original ground level. The walls and vault are of rubble masonry, and the floor is of earth. Nearly 2 m wide, with a barrel vault. At the E end there is an inserted blocking wall, and what lies beyond is unknown. On either side of the tunnel there are shallow rounded recesses, as if for statues, three each side. These are original to the tunnel, the vault of which is groined at each.

Reasons for Listing

Listed as a rare example of an C18 garden feature, retaining the well-detailed remains of a grotto, notwithstanding the loss of a former belvedere. Forms a striking feature within the grounds at Picton Castle.

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