IF the archaeologists are right, then Jenny Dalrymple, an 18th- century aristocrat living in one of the Lothians’ finest stately homes, missed her calling by about 160 years. Because if she had been around in the 1930s, Hollywood would have definitely snapped her up as a set designer for the extravagant, lavish musical movies so in fashion then.
But the fact that Jenny, a daughter of the family who lived in Newhailes House in Musselburgh in the 1770s, was limited to her home environment didn’t curtail her imagination. It appears that she was the driving force behind the Shell Grotto, which has lain derelict in the house’s grounds for decades and which is only now giving up its secrets.
And what archaeologists are discovering is that the grotto would have outshone a Liberace stage set with glistening walls, made of shell, coral, semi- precious stones and glass, which would have sent glimmering reflections into an overlooking pool, which was in turn fed by an artistic cascade of water.
No photos of anything that has yet been uncovered so it’s hard to tell really what it looked like.