Friday, 10 August 2012


Two people have received national recognition for their contribution to the conservation work at Margate’s Grade I-listed Shell Grotto.

Adrian Powell and Rob Smith have been shortlisted in the ‘Best Craftsmen Employed on a Heritage Rescue’ section of the prestigious English Heritage ‘Angel Awards’.  Both Rob and Adrian had their names put forward for recognition by Thanet District Council. 

The duo worked tirelessly for seven weeks on the Grotto, saving and repairing areas that had been damaged by long-term water penetration. Often enduring eight-hour shifts in challenging underground conditions, the pair displayed total commitment.

Their work represented the culmination of a five-year project that’s been supported by English Heritage, Thanet District Council, Kent County Council and the Friends of the Shell Grotto.  

Mystery surrounds the origins of the Grotto, but there is agreement that many of the repairs carried out in the 20th century were sometimes ill-advised. Instead of protecting the enigmatic Grotto, they often served to damage it.

However, the current work by Adrian and Rob has led to much of the harm being reversed, and 
they’ve ensured that vulnerable parts of the Grotto’s structure are stabilised.
Shell decoration has been pinned back in areas where it had become detached from the chalk, and sections that had lost shell decoration have been repaired. Previous cement repairs have also been replaced, and shells collected from the Grotto floor over many years have been re-bedded into the walls.

The council’s Cabinet Member for Community Services, Cllr Iris Johnston, said: “The origins of the Shell Grotto remain a mystery, and that’s part of the charm of this curious and captivating place.
“Adrian Powell and Rob Smith have been instrumental in the restoration work that’s been carried out at the Grotto. To be shortlisted for such a national award is superb, and I’m very pleased for them.
“I’m proud that the council has nominated them both, and would also like to congratulate the Grotto’s owner, Sarah Vickery, who has been an excellent custodian of this historic site.”
Sarah Vickery said: “I’m so pleased that the extraordinary quality of the work carried out by Rob and Adrian has been recognised. They brought such care and integrity to the Grotto – they’re my conservation heroes.”

The winners of the of the 'Best Craftsmen Employed on a Heritage Rescue’ section of the English Heritage ‘Angel Awards’ will be announced on 22 October.
People wishing to vote for Adrian and Rob should visit The deadline for voting is 16 September 2012.
For more information about the project, visit

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