P R O F I L E
Waterfowl and Gardens
Telephone: 01483 421955
The Douetil family moved into Busbridge Lakes in 1966 and since then have steadily improved the Old Stables house and 40 acre grounds as well as the antiquities. In spite of this, the pre-existing long term neglect of the estate has meant that there are still structures that need attention. These include the grotto and adjacent cave, both of which are not accessible to the public on open days. Over the years the bird wildlife on the lakes has been steadily enhanced and this is now a major feature of the gardens.
Crossing the lakes bridge on the right from the access road to the house, the cave can be seen on the hillside ahead. It comprises an ornamental stone doorway and surround with an antique iron door. This gives access to a tunnel that winds its way into the sandstone hillside. It dates from 1756 and was used as a mausoleum by the Webb family who owned the estate at the time. Within the passage is an ice house and after about 50 feet the cave ends in a large round chamber. The mausoleum was removed in the 1930s with the remains being relocated in the church nearby.
About 50 yards to the right of the cave is the grotto. This is on the lakeside and has a simi lar stone entrance structure to the cave. It is built over a spring that feeds the lake and once had a large ornamental conch shell that acted as a fountain. On the walls of the grotto there are still traces of shell work although much of the interior has been damaged over the centuries and a pump now directs the water into the lake. The grotto is of modest depth although there is a legend that a passage connects the cave to the grotto and possibly the church. It awaits further exploration before this legend can possibly be verified.
Both the cave and the grotto require restoration to bring them back to former glory.
On the bank just above the cave and grotto is the eighteenth century Romano Doric Temple with two porticos making this a charming triplicate of antiquities approached from over the low rocaille bridge.
The history of the gardens dates back to 1560 when The Old Hall, a timber building was constructed where the Middle Pond is now sited. It was subsequently converted, enlarged and eventually demolished in 1906. The original estate extended for some 1391 acres. The initial landscaping took place in the 1750s. The present owners acquired the property now comprising some 40 acres in 1966 and with subsequent purchases. The old stable block is now the principal house.
1. The Temple
2. The Cave entrance
3. Guide Andrew shows the grotto entrance
4. The grotto interior
5. Mysterious arches adjacent to the grotto - could these be the access points to the lost tunnel leading to the cave?
6. The mansion demolished in 1906.
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GREAT BRITISH GROTTO GRADING
Access by Road, Entry Fee, Grottoes - more than one, Restaurant/Food, Retail Souvenir Shop, Toilets
Country town/village, Inland Water, Park or Garden
England - Southern
THE FEATURES PRESENT
+Dark and mysterious chambers and cave like spaces, +External rock structures, either real or simulated, +Internal stonework that is natural, recycled or simulated to give a subterranean decor, +Sacred spring or integral water feature, +Stunning setting and location, GRADED FIVE