Report - - Underground Things on the Fonthill Estate, Tisbury, Wiltshire - January 2018 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Underground Things on the Fonthill Estate, Tisbury, Wiltshire - January 2018

Bertie Bollockbrains

There is no pain
Regular User
Hearing of numerous grottos, tunnels and mine workings on the extensive 9000 acre Fonthill estate in south Wiltshire and being a local, I just had to go and look. The estate is privately owned with limited public access and is currently the seat of Alastair John Morrison, 3rd Baron Margadale (b.1958).

Unfortunately just about everything that is underground was locked up tight. But for the purpose of completeness, I have done a full though report here on everything seen.


The Fonthill estate is most famous for being the home of William Beckford (1760-1844) novelist, Lord Mayor of London, art collector, travel writer and reputed at one stage in his life to be the richest commoner in England. He built numerous follies both on this estate and around Bath. A mile to the south-west of Fonthill House he built his grandest folly Fonthill Abbey with it's stupidly high 90m tower. But Beckford wasn't an engineer and the tower fell down two times during construction. The abbey was declared finished in 1813. The abbey collapsed for good in 1825 and today little remains.

On both sides of Fonthill Lake are cave or grotto works, probably built for William Beckford's son who was also called William. Those on the west side include the Hermit's Cave and the Hermit's Cell, with the Hermitage ('a rude erection in imitation of a Cromlech') on higher ground above the caves. There is tunnel under the roadway nearby. Opposite - i.e. on the east side of lake - the main grottoes extend on 3 levels with several entrances and chambers. These are described in William Beckford's Modern Novel Writing, 1796, II, vi, and were probably created by Josiah Lane 1794.

On the east side of the lake are short mine workings, which appear on the MRCA registry and are said to be used for storage in the 1970s.


1. We start here. We will pretend that we didn't see this sign.

2. On the west side of the lake, a tunnel can be found in the woods heading under a road. This is the west entrance.

3. Trace the tunnel above ground and two air shafts can be seen.

4. The blocked eastern entrance to the tunnel.

5. Fortunately a way in is possible.

6. Child added for sense of scale.

7. The tunnel is U-shaped and extends for about 50m.

8. It consists of large chambers with narrow archways between each.

9. Looking up to an air shaft.

10. Finally the other end of the tunnel.

11. Nearby is one of Beckford's grottos, unfortunately sealed. This one is called the Hermit's Cave.

12. Looking in.

13. Detail of a reclining lady carving.

14. On an exterior wall was a large ammonite fossil.

15. Grottos on the east side of the lake. This one is called the lakeside grotto.

16. But flooded inside.

17. This one is called the Hermit's Bath, inside was a deep water-filled tub.

18. And the mine workings. All sealed unfortunately but did look deep enough for a worthwhile look.


Thanks for reading.

Bertie Bollockbrains

There is no pain
Regular User
Thanks for that Ojay - I personally thought the trip was a big fail as just about everything was sealed! Good to get the compliment.

One final thing...don't go on a weekday as the estate is full of forestry workers and it took me two attempts to do all this. The remains of the abbey has been converted to a residential property within the estate and is probably best avoided for somebody like me but probably doable for somebody with balls of steel and carrying man-up pills - the residential property is an annex to the ruined north wing. The public are allowed to walk up to it on an once-a-year charity open day.


The Kwan

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Looks really interesting Bertie, loving the carved lady but it looks like they have done a good job with the grills, I take it that the grottos were follies but being on 3 levels may suggest otherwise...enjoyed reading this :thumb