Margate Grotto Wall

The mysterious shell grotto of Margate – Part 2

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It is not logical that the grotto was used as a dungeon as some have suggested. Dungeons clearly do not need beautifully decorated walls and ceilings.

The grotto was also not used as a quarry. There are other, more obvious places to acquire limestone and quarries are not excavated in the shape of arch structures.

It also can not be true that the grotto was used as a smugglers cave. They certainly use to smuggle a lot in this region. However, the grotto is situated on a hill too far away from the sea. There would be tunnels that run to the shore and at least one escape tunnel. They are not there. A repository for contraband would not need to be decorated so beautifully.

Throughout the whole of England you can find so called Follies. These are useless structures with no other purpose than decoration and displaying wealth to the outside world. After 1700 A.D. the rich built arbors and grottos near their stately homes, which were richly decorated, often left with shells. The shell grotto was built on what was once farmland and no one could perceive the wealth because it is underground. The theory of  a Folly therefore does not make sense.

That the cave was used as a place of worship is obvious. At the end of the hallway is an altar. The roundabout might have played a major role.  In several World Religions running or walking concentrically is common to get in touch with the gods. The Dervishes dance endless laps to get in ecstasy and thus get closer to God. The Bible tells us the story of the people of Jericho needing to walk seven rounds around the city to bring down its walls.  Muslims walk seven rounds during their Hajj around the sacred stone of the Kaaba in Mecca to be elevated. Was the roundabout in the cave also walked around as a way of getting in touch with a higher power?

Researcher Mick Twyman of the Margate historical society thinks that the grotto might have been built in the 12th century. He explains the link between the grotto and the temple knights. During his research, he did not let himself be distracted by the possible significance of the designs in the shells. He just looked at the size and construction of the grotto itself. He came to his conclusion by carefully measuring the angles in the grotto and observing the position of projected sunlight on the dome. On June 21st at 12:00, the light that is passing through the dome looks like an egg that reflects on the belly of a mosaic snake. Then the light is reflected by square openings in the top of the cave that directs the light to the altar in the rectangular altar room. Can there be a link to the Mayan culture who allowed, in the construction of Chitzen Itza, the serpent to descend along the steps of the temple on the exact same day and time?

Between March and October (the fertility season according to the Ancient Celts) the projection of sunlight on the dome might have been used as a sundial. Based on this phenomenon and complex mathematical calculations, taking into account the changing angle of the equinox every 72 years,Twyman calculated that the construction of the grotto must have taken place around 1141 AD.

According to Twyman, the designs in the cave show references to early Masonic rituals. Above the entrance to the altar room was a cornerstone and for performing Royal Arch Masonry (an initiatory degree in Freemasonry) they needed an altar. Masonic symbols such as compass, square, star of David, pentagram, tetrahedon, panels with symbols of Ancient Gods like the two heavenly light rays and the Pleiadian constellation can be found in the grotto.

During my visit to the cave I had a strong feeling that a female power was worshiped in the cave. The fact that shells resemble a womb reinforced that feeling. During my research for writing this article, I noticed the resemblance between the 8-pointed star (an important symbol in several cultures, associated with creation) as it occurs repeatedly on the walls of the grotto in Margate and the star of Ishtar, the goddess of Mesopotamia (or known as Inanna in Sumeria) that represents fertility, love, war and sex. Ishtar is also associated with the planet Venus. Could it be that the opening in the dome was used to observe the planet Venus to determine the correct time of worship?


Well, no matter what it exactly is, I do believe it is rather fascinating. Certainly, it would have been painstakingly time-consuming, whether it is ancient or middle ages. Thanks for this interesting article!

malisa wright

Justbod's picture

Fascinating place made even more so by the mystery of its origins! Thank you for the article and for drawing it to my attention! Definietly one to visit – it does look beautiful – now on my list!


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