The installation was developed as a kind of folly or grotto, viewable only from the window of Peak, existing in space inaccessible to its viewers.
The works considered two different iterations of the word grotto.
The first, its life in an account of working class children in towns and cities in England in the 19th Century building “grottas”, and the patchy online accounts and narratives I was able to source around these.
The other, a well documented history of Landscaped Gardens. Connected by certain formal elements (i.e shells), one (the fast assemblages put together on the street side) remains relatively obscure, whilst the other has lasted, both on site and in and recorded in archives.
“Garden Centre culture” and the garden centre lobby became part of the conversation around personal freedoms during the first national lockdown in 2020. The Garden Centre has its place in a version of English cultural identity. Its antecedents are in the landscaped gardens of the 18th and 19th Century, sculpted using the wealth of those at the top of a hierarchical society built on exploitation, extraction, and colonialism.1
Everyone loves a trip to B&Q.
The structures the children produced at kerb sides were made of earth, shells, taw- dry odds and ends of ribbons etc. Perhaps some went so far as to scoop out a cave but this was by no means essential. Grottos could also constructed on old trays so that they could be transported to more lucrative sites or moved swiftly out of sight of disapproving parents or adults likely to snitch. Passers by were asked to give 'a penny for the grotto' so it paid for it to be as elaborate and decorative as possible.”
describing a practice from the 18th and 19th Century, in Mitcham, London
There was a shift, during the 18th Century, in the tastes of those wealthy enough to own land which would be landscaped into gardens: from formal straight paths trees and hedges arranged in squares and cones, to representation of “the landscape”; “a very specific version of “nature”, nature as a visual spectacle of plants and water and space.” Follys, grottos, hermitages, bridges and lakes became features in these spectacles.“To display a correct taste in Landscape was a valuable social accomplishment quite as much as to sing well or to compose a polite letter”
— Rebecca Solnit Wanderlust, a history of Walking.
We're a nation of gardeners and garden centres have been the heart of that for 30-plus years. We're part of the cultural landscape.”
— BBC News, 2020 Boyd Douglas-Davies. Director of a 17million pound 57 branch chain of garden centres in the UK,
head of the Horticultural Trades Association