Widow Spinks and Her Grotto


This rare, perhaps unique, example of an early nineteenth-century garden grotto became an attraction to entice customers to a business showroom in Derby.

William Spinks was a manufacturer of fluorspar (alabaster) ornaments in Derby. Following his death in 1811, his widow Frances (1761-c.1820) continued to run the business in King Street. She was an enterprising businesswoman and advertising in the Derby Mercury , she drew attention to an attraction – the ‘elegant grotto’ behind the manufactory showrooms:

‘An Elegant Grotto’

The Building is of an octagonal form, with a pyramidal Roof, terminating in a glazed Dome; from whence the light is transmitted internally through polished circular Specimens of choice transparent Fluors, the various and beautiful hues of which are by this means shewn to great advantage. It receives light also from four Gothic Windows of transparent Paintings on Glass, representing the Four Seasons.

The internal decorations of the Walls consist of fine Specimens of the Crystallizations of Minerals, Stalactites, etc. collected at a very considerable expence from various parts of the Kingdom, but particularly Derbyshire. Also a great diversity of Corals, Shells, and other marine Productions, from many different parts of the World. And opposite the Entrance, is a curious Chimney-piece supported by Columns of Alabaster cut in diamonds.

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