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Latitude: 51.5961 / 51°35'46"N
Longitude: -2.7704 / 2°46'13"W
OS Eastings: 346729
OS Northings: 188868
OS Grid: ST467888
Mapcode National: GBR JH.BMTP
Mapcode Global: VH7BH.X4RR
Entry Name: Grotto, Underground Garden and Bridge about 60m to west of Dewstow House
Listing Date: 29 March 2000
Last Amended: 29 March 2000
Source ID: 23061
Building Class: Domestic
Location: In Dewstow about 1km north of the centre of Caldicot and situated on the north east side of Dewstow Road.
Community: Caerwent (Caer-went)
Traditional County: Monmouthshire
The Dewstow estate was bought in about 1890 by the agriculturalist Henry Oakley (died 1940) who was mainly responsible for laying out the very elaborate gardens in the years round about 1900. He may well have been influenced in their design by E J Lowe (died 1900) who lived at the nearby Shirenewton Hall and was also a fern grower. The underground gardens, constructed mainly of concrete block, brick and artificial stone (perhaps Pulhamite), are large and remarkable. The three surviving areas are listed separately.
The main drive is carried by a balustraded segmental arched bridge which crosses a winding stream which emerges from a stonework Gothic arch. This arch leads to a small 'gorge' with tiered rockwork on either side and the stream running in small winding channels in the level artificial rockwork floor, creating stepping stones through the arch. In the east side is a small semi-circular pool. An arched entrance leads to a winding rockwork passage into an underground garden.
Just inside the entrance of the garden, on the right hand side, is a caved-in passage into the underground garden to the east. Most of the floor is taken up with a naturalistic pool, with stone steps across it. There are pillars of rockwork with niches for ferns, and at the north end is a waterfall which is said still to work. The chamber is top lit but the glazing has gone, leaving only the iron and re-inforced concrete framework. The water for the gardens was carefully controlled and there are various standpipes and water cocks hidden in the niches. This garden was intended for growing ferns, a speciality of Henry Oakley's.
Included as the garden features of an early C19 villa with well preserved character which was occupied for a long time (c1890-c1940) by Henry Oakley, a well known horticulturalist and breeder of shire horses. The garden is principally his work and includes these exceptionally fine and well preserved grottoes from about 1900 which were designed for the growth and display of ferns, an Oakley specialism. It is highly graded for these reasons.
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