Semi-subterranean grotto with steps, built by a London merchant Thomas Bliss between 1731 and 1757 for his celebrated garden "all the world in one acre" and section of boundary wall.
Reason for Listing
This semi-subterranean grotto with steps, built by a London merchant Thomas Bliss between 1731 and 1757 for his celebrated garden "all the world in one acre" and section of boundary wall is recommended for statutory listing at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural: a little-altered early to mid-C18 grotto built into an embankment with a retaining wall with a dip in the top to provide views from a raised walk.
* Materials: brick and the rare use externally of clinker and shells and internally of glass clinker, pottery clinker and iron slag clinker with some crystals and native and exotic shells.
* Rarity: the grotto, and the raised walks, are rare survivals nationally (Hazelle Jackson's "Shell Houses and Grottoes" (2001) recorded only 66 known examples of grottoes in England of all periods)
* Historic interest: the only surviving garden features of a once celebrated C18 garden called "all the world in one acre" which appeared in Daniel Defoe's "A Tour thro' the whole Island of Great Britain" amongst other works.
* Group value: there are five listed structures immediately to the east.
This grotto with steps and the south boundary wall to no. 6 Monk's Walk originally formed part of the park and garden of a large house called Little Doods, whose name was altered to The Wilderness by 1823.
Little Doods is first mentioned as such in the late C17 when Edward Thurland sold a house of this name to the Quaker, Nathaniel Owen in 1698. The house was rented from Owen by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the third Earl of Shaftesbury (1671-1713) from 1709 until 1711 and in these years he brought together the first edition of 'Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times', which was published in 1711, and his son and heir the Fourth Earl of Shaftesbury was born and spent his earliest years here. However, increasingly bad health led to the third Earl quitting England in July 1711 for the Bay of Naples where he died in 1713. Nathaniel Owen's property is described as 'a large commodious house' with' good garden' in the Daily Courant of 21 January 1725. Upon Owen's death, circa 1725, Little Doods was sold by his heir to Richard Raper, a London apothecary, whose monument is in the parish church.
From 1731 to 1758 Little Doods was owned by Thomas Bliss, a London merchant, who created a celebrated garden in the grounds. The third edition of Daniel Defoe's 'A Tour thro' the whole Island of Great Britain' (1748, Volume 1) referred to Little Doods in the following terms: 'In this Town the late Lord Shaftesbury had an House; to which he frequently retired, when he was inclined to seclude himself from Company. This house is now possessed by a private Gentleman, who has laid out and planted a small Spot of Ground in so many little parts, as to comprise whatever can be supposed in the most noble Seats: so that it may properly be considered a Model. The name it passes under by the Inhabitants of Rygate, is, The World in one Acre of Land.' Thomas Bliss was declared bankrupt in 1757 and the auction details of 1758 (in various editions of the Whitehall Evening Post, London Intelligencer etc from March 27th onwards) mention 'gardens elegantly laid out with Canals, Fountains, Grotto, Walks etc.' The fifth edition of Defoe's Tour published in 1762 expanded the end of the second sentence of the 1748 entry for Little Doods by the following [Model] 'of a Garden and Park, for in the Garden there is a Mount, a River, a Parterre, and Wilderness, and without that, a Laun with four or five Deer, terminated by a small Wood, and yet the whole Compass of Ground is not more than four Acres.'
In 1808 David Hughson's 'London and its Neighbourhood to 30 miles extent' (Volume 5: Reigate pp 334-5) mentions a 'very neat genteel place called Little Dood's or 'all the world in an acre' but his description of garden features there is almost word for word that of the 1762 fifth edition of Defoe's 'A Tour thro' the whole Island of Great Britain'.
William Ridgeway wrote the History of Reigate in 1811 and, in a manuscript edition of 1814 held by the Surrey Archaeological Society library, he wrote 'The next is a very neat genteel place called Little Doods or all the World in an Acre, it was so called from formerly containing everything, a Wilderness, with Rural Meander walks, a Grotto, a Park, and Lawn, Gardens, and a Canal of Water, half around the house, and fountains which sprouted up water, the whole not more than 5 or 6 acres. The Earl of Shaftesbury lived at it. He came at it to recluse himself to finish his Characteristics, after him came a family of the name of Owen and after them a Mr Rapier, he sold it to a Mr Bliss, Mr Bliss sold it to a Mr Bird, - Marble Merchant, Mr Bird sold it to a Mr Barnes, Mr Barnes sold it in the year 1811 to a Mr Comberbatch, Mr Comberbatch sold it to a Mr Burgess in the year 1814.' Of the owners mentioned it is known that Mr Barnes, a solicitor born in 1733, worked as an administrator and steward on several landowners estates. He was a prominent member of Reigate society and in 1776 leased Reigate Castle, building the folly there in 1777. Little Doods was occupied by Ynyr Burgess from 1814 to 1830. In C and J Greenwood's 'Surrey Described' (1823), Little Doods is refered to as having had its name changed to The Wilderness. After 1830 the property was occupied by the Freshfield family, who were still resident there in 1911.
Two watercolours by John Hassell dated 1821 show Little Doods as a large rendered house with projecting gabled side wings and mullioned and transomed windows but with Gothick style crenellated parapets, central window and doorcase and quatrefoil ornaments. A photograph in the Holmesdale Natural History Club Museum of an C18 view shows a pedimented garden elevation with five sash windows of early C18 appearance.
The 1799 map of Reigate shows Little Doods but does not show the landscaping of the park in any detail, although the southern boundary wall is identical to the present one. The two inch to one mile Ordnance Survey Manuscript in the British Library (OSDF89, surveyed 1806 to 1810) shows the river, parkland and wilderness. The 1842 Tithe Map shows the outline of the main house, the southern boundary wall, the eastern boundary wall between Little Doods and an adjoining property (formerly called The Retreat, now Churchefelle House), and some divisions in the grounds more clearly shown on the First edition Ordnance Survey map of 1871. The 1871 map shows the name of the main house changed to The Wilderness. It shows the park and garden forming a U-shape skirting around the boundaries of an existing Vicarage with main house, carriage drive, subsidiary buildings and possible gardens to the north-east. There is a wooded area with meandering paths to the east of the site, which appears to show the grotto itself, certainly the embankment into which it is built, and most of the remainder of the grounds are laid to grass except for a belt of trees with paths by the boundaries to south, west and north and a clump of trees at the narrowest point in the centre of the site. The 5 inch 1871 map is reported to specifically mention the Grotto. There is no change on the 1896 map and little change on the 1914 map except for the erection of some greenhouses to the west of the house and the simplification of the garden area nearest to the house although the embankment south of the grotto is still shown. The 1911 Victoria County History of Surrey, Volume III mentions the Wilderness as the seat of Mr J W Freshfield. However, by the Ordnance Survey map of 1935 the eastern and southern grounds of the Wilderness have been replaced by a close with an estate of suburban houses called Monk's Walk. The embankment and boundary wall, though not the grotto, are still shown to the south of no. 6 Monk's Walk and The Wilderness still appears but with much reduced grounds now bounded by the north side of the new road. The Wilderness was demolished circa 1967 and replaced by an apartment block.
MATERIALS: brick grotto, partly covered in glass clinker, pottery clinker, slag clinker, crystals and exotic and native shells. The boundary wall is of brick.
PLAN: a north-facing semi-subterranean circular chamber with retaining walls approached down shallow steps and set into an embankment with brick retaining walls.
EXTERIOR: the central part of the grotto has been covered externally in clinker with a decoration of conch shells at intervals and has a round-headed entrance leading to the internal chamber. It retains traces of a door frame. On either side are not quite symmetrical curved retaining walls of Flemish and header bond brick with curved parapets. The west retaining wall is not bonded in. The grotto is built into an embankment providing a raised walk and a brick retaining and boundary wall, now the south boundary wall of no. 6 Monk's Walk, part of a much longer stretch of wall which originally formed the southern boundary wall to Little Doods. This section of the boundary wall only has a shallow dip in the parapet in order to provide a view southwards over the top. The internal north-facing side is about six feet in height with occasional vitrified headers and the upper courses have been re-pointed in the C20. The external or south-facing side is about eight feet high, with a projecting plinth. It is also in Flemish bond with the upper courses re-pointed in the C20.
INTERIOR: the internal circular chamber of the grotto, originally brick, lime-washed, is lined with clinker including glass clinker, pottery clinker and iron slag clinker with some crystals, conch and oyster shell decoration and has mortar of various periods. The south wall incorporates a number of niches with lead piping and shallow basins providing a water supply to the upper side niches.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.