The Grotto can be found in a wood at the west end of the grounds of Hasley Manor. At the time of its construction, the Grotto would have been more visible than it is today and would have had a view of the river. In the spring, there is an area carpeted with snowdrops. (Photo left 1969 of Tanya Egan and Terry Green.)
In the late 1700s, it was the vogue for the gentry to have a folly or Grotto built on the grounds of their country houses, either on the skyline or in the garden, to enhance the view. The Ruinous Grotto at Thornton was a kind of summer house with seating all around.
It was built in the late 1700s by Dr William Cotton and his son-in-law Thomas Sheppard as part of the building programme that ravaged the church.
However, the Gentleman’s Magazine (December 1801) applauded the alterations, describing the church as a neat and commodious building and a pattern for all churches and chapels for true devotion.
The church’s chancel and chantry chapels were presumed to be pulled down because of structural damage. It was more economical to make the church smaller as the parish had shrunk. The demolished parts were taken to build the Grotto.
The door of the Grotto was gothic—the windows and the glass date from the 14th century.