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Shell House Talks    

Poetic and Landscape Retreats: Garden Grottoes and Shell Houses.

A series of illustrated talks based on personal travelogues, photographs, prints and research.

A poet and a landscape specialist research shell houses, grottoes, garden features and literary retreats.

By Gerald and Margaret Hull


Margaret and her husband Gerald, retired lecturers, have spent 7 years travelling the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe cataloguing the sites of over 150 shell houses and grottoes. They are the established and unique authorities in the British Isles and have extended this fascination into the Caribbean and United States. They have published 3 books on the subject. Their lectures offer a social and historical survey of these remarkable architectural landscape features while, separately, they offer a related literary context for specific locations.

Their many illustrated talks of between 45 and 60 minutes are often witty, always informative, fully documented and individually crafted to audience, location and subject.

Some of the many sites illustrated include:

The Pantheon - Stourhead - Wiltshire
The Pantheon (1750), Stourhead , Wiltshire. Picturesque Landscape Garden.
Bench murals by William Hoare of Bath.
Pope’s Grotto (Twickenham) A La Ronde (Exmouth) Marlborough, Sherborne, Goodwood, Stourhead, Painshill, Leeds Castle (Maidstone) Prior Park (Bath) Walton, Goldney (Bristol) Osborne (Isle of Wight); work in Yorkshire and Somerset.
Carton Shell House - County Kildare - Ireland
Carton Shell House, 1756, Co. Kildare, Ireland
Carton ((Kildare) Curraghmore (Waterford) Ballymaloe (Cork) Delville (Botanic Gardens, Dublin) Wales and the West: Portmeirion, Dewstow, Cilwendeg, Pontypool, Llandridnod Wells, Tresco Abbey Gardens, Gyllyngdune (Falmouth) Menabilly.
Fontana di Trevi (1735), Rome. Oceanus and his scallop shaped chariot.
Grottoes and shell rooms on the Northern lakes; Villa d’Este (Lake Como) Villa Cortine (Lake Garda) Isola Bella (Lake Maggiore).
The Nymphaeum at Lainate.
Boboli Gardens, Palazzo Corsini, Villa Gamberaia, Villa Torrigiani, Villa di Costello, Villa La Pietra [home of Sir Harold Acton] Villa di Pratolino.
Villa Guastavillani.
Shell fountains at Villa Medici, Villa Lante, Villa d’Este, Villa Aldobandini, Parco del Mostri (Bomarzo), Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa).
Gaudi's Casa Trias - Barcelona
Gaudi's Casa Trias, Park Guell (1900), Barcelona.
Santiago de Compostella, Coruna Port, Casa de las Conchas, Casa Mila, Barcelona, Granada/Alhambra.
Sintra Palace - Lisbon - Portugal
Shell Fountain in the Medieval Cloister, Pena Palace, Sintra, nr. Lisbon, Portugal
16th century Gothic Merman archway, Pena Palace, Sintra, nr. Lisbon, Portugal
Palace of Queluz (Lisbon), Pena Palace (Sintra).
Het Loo Palace, Arnhem Castle, Rosendael Castle.
Copenhagen: Frederiksborg Palace, Sargenfri Palace (garden grottoes) Sweden: Stockholm; Kungstradgarden Station (grotto tunnel), Drottingholm Palace.
Schonbrunn Palace - Vienna - Neptune Fountain
Schonbrunn Palace, Neptune Fountain (1770), Vienna, Austria
Salzburg (SchlossHellbrunn ). Vienna (Schonbrunn Palace).
Schloss Hellbrunn - Salzburg - Austria
Schloss Hellbrunn and Garden of Trick Fountains, Salzburg, Austria.
Neptune's Grotto c 1600.
Schloss Hellbrunn - Salzburg - Austria
Schloss Hellbrunn and Garden of Trick Fountains, Salzburg, Austria.
Neptune's Grotto c 1600.
St Petersburg: Peterhof Palace, Catherine Palace, Cottage Palace; Moscow: Cathedral of Michael the Archangel; Kuscovo.
Chateau de Rambouillet, nr Paris, Villa du Piedefer, Viry-Chatillon, Ile-de-France, Villa Kerdalo, Brittany, Le Monde du Coquillage Museum, St Malo, Chateau de Vendeuvre, Lisieux, Normandy, Chateau de la Bastie d’ Urfe, Loire.
Der Grottenhof - Shell Room - Munich
Der Grottenhof, Shell Room, 1583, Munich, Bavaria.
Munich (The Residence) Hannover (Grotto in Herrenhausen Palace Garden), Nymphenburg Palace, Heidelberg Castle, Wilhelmshohe Castle, Neuschwanstein Castle, Schloss Weissenstein, Herrenchiemsee Palace. Berlin: Sanssouci Palace, Potsdam: Orangery Palace.
Akamas - Cyprus
Akamas, Cyprus - Birthplace of Aphrodite/Venus.
Also detail at Guernsey (Little Chapel, St Andrew’s Parish) Jersey (Fishermen’s Church) Corfu, Cyprus, Malta.


Shell Factory (North Fort Myers); Key West (town’s heraldic symbol is the conch); Isla Morada Mansion, Florida Keys, National Shell Museum, Sanibel; The Vizcaya Museum and Villa (Italian Renaissance style) Bonnett house Museum and gardens (loggia/shell murals) shell collection of Helen & Frederick Birch, St Petersburg Gardens; Villa Fontana, Palm Beach (Eberhardt brothers’ collections).

Getty villa, Pacific Palisades; Jeff Sheton’s shell house, Santa Barbara; Hugh Hefner’s mansion in L.A.

New Orleans
St Louis Cathedral, Creole town houses.

Jack Lightbourn – world’s largest private shell collection; Hamilton and Joyce Gascoigne shell artist (our forthcoming book).

Thunderball Grotto, Nassau.

Bridgetown – detail on sailors’ valentines, St Nicholas Abbey.

Ponta Delgada, Jardin Antonio Borges.

Gerald and Margaret Hull
A snowy birth for Venus!

So far we have given over 60 talks to Societies and Organisations.

These have included St Ives Arts Club, BBC Radio Bristol, Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute (BRLSI – a series of 3 lectures), Dillington House, The Dorset Gardens Trust, The Bath National Trust, The Irish Georgian Society, London; The Irish National Botanical Gardens Centre at Glasnevin, Dublin; Welsh Gardens Society. We have lectured extensively throughout Devon, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Worcestershire and Somerset.

In addition we have contacted or met in person modern shell artists, designers and authorities such as Blott Kerr Wilson, Sarah Compton, Linda Fenwick, Belinda Eade, Candace Bahouth, the daughter of the late Joyce Gascoigne, Diane Reynell, Tess Morley, Ingrid Thomas, Professor Timothy Mowl and Rory Guinness. Their work and custodianship are also considered.

Ince Castle Shell House
Ince Castle Shell House, Cornwall - Window -
shell work by the Lennox-Boyds
Old Rectory - Terrington
The Shell House (2000), Old Rectory, Terrington,
North Yorkshire. Artist - Linda Fenwick.
Isola Bella - Lake Maggiore - Italy
Interior Grotto Room, Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore, Italy
Shell House - Bowden Hall - Wiltshire
Shell House (1792), Bowden Hall, Wiltshire
Fonthill Estate Grotto
Fonthill Estate Grotto (c1785), Wiltshire
St Levan Church - West Cornwall
15th century carved Pilgrim (with scallop shell).
St Levan Church, West Cornwall
The Ladies' Winter Walk - Highnam Court - Gloucestershire
The Ladies' Winter Walk, Highnam Court, Gloucestershire
Pontypool Shell House - Llandegfedd - Wales
Pontypool Shell House, 1784, Llandegfedd, Wales
  Copyright © Gerald and Margaret Hull  
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