Grottoes and boat caves were a very popular feature of many Pulham gardens, many of which are discussed in Pulham Rock Gardens. One famous early example is the boat cave beside the artificial main lake at Sandringham, built in 1868 and shown in the left picture of Fig 5.1. This seemed to set the pattern for a number of other similar boat caves around the country, but there were others that were strictly ‘land-based’. A number of the later ones incorporated flights of rustic steps that led up to a sunbathing plateau on top, thus providing the lucky owner with a choice of enjoying the cool of the cave or the warmth of the sun.
Fig 5.1 – The Pulham boat cave at Sandringham (1868), and the ‘Lion Grotto’ at Dewstow (1912)
James 2 died in 1898, and James 3 was even more imaginative and adventurous in his designs than his father. The Victorian era was drawing to a close, and the firm’s clients wanted to demonstrate their wealth by extending and refurbishing their houses, and surrounding them with grand, balustraded terraces etc. Some even went underground, and one such person was Henry Oakley, who owned Dewstow House, near Caerwent, Monmouthshire. A major feature of these incredible gardens is the series of underground fernery grottoes, all linked by James 3’s man-made tunnels. The ‘Lion Grotto’ is shown on the right of Fig 5.1, but that is only one feature of these incredible gardens. Their full story is just one of the many told in Pulham Rock Gardens, but, even when you have read about them in the book, you won’t believe how wonderful they are until you have seen them for yourself!