I was watching the 2009 production of Emma the other day when I realized Pride and Prejudice is the only Jane Austen story in which the primary male and female characters do not go on an excursion together. Of course, in each scenario there are annoying people amongst them. It made me wonder what it would be like for the Bennets and the Bingley group to go on an outing together. Could you imagine Caroline having to sit in a carriage with Lydia for hours?
Thus I began researching to find a suitable place in Hertfordshire to send our beloved Pride and Prejudice characters. However, I also wanted to post about it for today’s theme. I knew it had to be “wacky.” After a few hours, I found Scott’s Grotto in Ware. It’s about 4 miles from Hertford, which I tend to use as my base for Meryton. I’ve read somewhere, now lost to my memory, that it’s a possible inspiration for Meryton.
Scott’s Grotto is not just any grotto. And for those that don’t know, a grotto is a cave. Think Ariel’s grotto from the Little Mermaid. I am a bit biased on the topic of grottoes as I grew up in a town called Grottoes and, if I may say, we have the best caverns in the US. If you ever find yourself in Virginia, be sure to stop by Grand Caverns.
Back to Scott’s Grotto. It’s the largest in England. Built into the chalk hillside, it has six chambers and is 65 feet long and 30 feet below the surface. There are connecting passages and the area is complete with air and light shafts. Its walls are covered with sea shells, colored glass, and stones. It was made by John Scott, an 18th century Quaker who also wrote poetry and owned the property of Amwell House in which the grotto is located. Scott also had other romantic items in his garden, including a gazebo. From 1779 to 1787, Scott recorded 3,000 visitors to his grotto. Famed writer Samuel Johnson visited in 1773 and called it a “fairy hall.”
Upon Scott’s death in 1783, the estate was inherited by his only daughter, Maria. She married a wealthy Quaker named John Hooper. Unfortunately, when she died in 1863 the property was divided up. The grotto was repaired in 1990s. Both the house and the estate are under management of the Hertford Regional College.
So…how will I work this grotto into a story? You’ll just have to come back and see! 😀