Friday, 11 September 2015

Shell Grotto

Over the past three months I have been working with my mum on a residency at Gyllyngdune Gardens. Gyllyngdune has a rich and fascinating history, it was once owned by Frederick Horniman: tea heir, MP for Falmouth, father of Annie Horniman and collector of interesting artefacts. He is perhaps most well known for founding the Horniman Collection in London. He bought Gyllyngdune at the end of the 19th century, saving it after several decades in disrepair and gifted it to the council who have run it since. 

Prior to Horniman's ownership it was in the hands of a very bonkers vicar who was responsible for much of the garden's amazing layout and foliage, and a tiny unconsecrated chapel that looks out to sea. His daughters are rumoured to have made the shell grotto and shell seats located in and above the quarry garden. After years crumbling away the shell seats were restored a few years ago. They are situated in the most magical spot, overlooking the quarry garden filled with ferns with a view right out to the sea. It is the most spectacular vista on a sunny day. As soon as I stumbled on these grottos I knew I wanted to snap some pictures in them and the residency has been the perfect opportunity to do just that! The gardens as a space are wonderfully theatrical, there are so many performative spaces including a pavilion, the grottos, the quarry and a rose garden which rather resembles an Edwardian promenade.

I hand painted a shell encrusted ensemble, very much in the style of the flamboyant Annie Horniman, who was renowned for her eccentric style and her liaisons with the theatre I wanted to capture the theatrical nature of the gardens and Annie because although Annie never visited I like to think if she had she would have enjoyed posing and lounging in the garden.

You may remember my tea reader post last year celebrating all things tea and the tea festival at Gyllyngdune Gardens. The tea festival is a yearly event and takes place this year on the 20th September. My mum and I will have an exhibition in the foyer of our work from the residency and we will be holding a workshop from 11-5 creating dresses, turbans and accessories from tea bag material. We will then invite select participants to don the tea bag ensembles and take part in various Tableau Vivant throughout the garden. The ensembles will be very much in the style of Annie Horniman's costumes, with heavy hints of Paul Poiret (he was after all the master of the early fashion parade) and early 19th century theatre costumes.

Fashion parade through garden, Paul Poiret
Source: 1
Source: 2 

Annie Horniman
Source: 3
I hope you all are enjoying the burst of sunshine, I certainly am! If you are in Falmouth on the 20th  do pop in to our workshop and say hello. 

In other news you can read about an average 24 hours in my on Old Tat Magazine's blog.

Outfit Details

First ensemble
Embroidered net top - Miss Selfridge
Sequinned shift dress - Topshop
Headdress - Penny MacBeth
Embroidered necklace - Penny MacBeth
Turquoise jelly shoes - JuJu Jellies

Second ensemble
Shell t-shirt - hand painted by me 
Shell Christmas ornaments (worn in hair) - charity shop
Tights - hand painted by me
Scallop shell necklace - charity shop
Sequinned hot pants - Topshop


  1. Totally in love with your first outfit, that is so wonderful!! Gyllyngdune sounds very interesting, I would like to see it. The hand painted shirt is great too :) I hope you have a great weekend :) x

  2. What beautiful style! You definitely look ethereal and very mermaid-esque, especially in the first photo. I love that gif, it's so neat.


  3. I want to live in a decadent garden ... They are always a source of inspiration and at the same time rest for the mind .. This place is lovely, it's perfect to take pictures and you are the perfect protagonist! it's really interesting what you told us, on this site and on the festival of tea!

  4. What a gorgeous place to spend time in! I remember George Clarke featuring a shell grotto on Small Spaces and demanding Jon built me one.
    The shell painted top is divine, you clever thing.
    Love the chicks in the second photo even tho' there's definitely a case of chronic bitch face going down. xxxx

  5. That water reflective photo blew my mind, wow! I love these photos. I saw a little of Gyllyngdune Gardens when I was in Falmouth after I met you, unfortunately a lot of it was closed but what I did see what so beautiful.

  6. Magnificent! Everything - the styling with the location and history. I had to read about Ms. Horniman and found out her nickname was Hornibags! Such a cool woman, and you are the perfect person to do a tribute. The reflection photo is art. That's all.

  7. So so very beautiful and interesting. That badass Annie Horniman sounds like quite the character and I'm certain that she would be thrilled to see you mermaiding around in the grotto in your hand painted shells and headdress. Such a nice bit of Lally 24 hours in Old Tat. Good Luck with the workshop. You and your mom are quite the awesome pair!

  8. You and your mum are great together, what a team! I still haven't made it to the Horniman, it's supposed to a nice little museum with great gardens. That water reflective picture is rather wonderful, I wonder what magic you wove to create that. Love any shell grotto, but that one's sounds particularly inspiring. Those Paul Poiret photos remind me of my thesis, the Ballet Russes and its influence on fashion! Thrilling reading as you can imagine. Right I'm off to see what 24 hours look like for Lally Macbeth! Xxxx

  9. I think you eat exactly the same things as we do!

  10. Whoops, pressed the button too soon. I've read your 24 hours and it sounds like we have identical diets! Xx

  11. The shell grotto is magical, and you are the perfect water nymph in your painted outfit!

  12. You are so gorgeous,and the picture is beautiful.