The following extract is from Picturesque Ferneries and Rock Gardens by James Pulham 2nd c.1877 p.15
Kate Banister of the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust kindly sent me a copy of this extract on 10th February 2017, and it has sat in my files, waiting for an opportunity to develop the website so that we might present it in the wider context of the history of the development of Anthony Parson’s Fernery.
James Pulham writes:
“Mr Williams, the well-known fern and orchid cultivator says: ‘That he should advise fern lovers to visit Mr Parsons art (sic) Danesbury, and see this charming spot, and his favourite; and everyone having a taste for chaste and elegant foliage. The rock-work here was executed by Pulham.’
I may add, when I took the place (Ed. i.e. when James Pulham 2 agreed to do the job) I found it a rubbish hole (as I have other places before): this enabled an interesting cave and dropping well to be formed in Pulhamite rock; the former in the bank, for a shady seat, and though built up to close it, it is quite dry, great care being taken in construction to exclude all damp from passing into the wall, which generally makes such places damp and uninviting to sit in”
Kate Banister opined when she sent this extract to me, that this report from ‘the man himself’ presents clear enough evidence that originally the grotto would have housed a seat. Kate also concludes that the quoted reference to ‘chaste foliage‘ would indicate that the purpose of the grotto and seat, and its secluded position within a ‘dingle and dell’ setting, overlooking rocky beds and ferns, would likely as not have been for courtship!