September 20, 2009

Frederick Attrill, Shell decorated house

coloured postcards courtesy of Steve Shalfleet
from the collection on his website about the Isle of Wight

The old postcard pictured above shows a man decorating his house with shells.

Life and works

Frederick Attrill (1839 - 1926 ), a fish seller by profession, made these shell decorations during the last ten years of his life, continuing this project until his death in 1926.

From the 1920s until the 1970s this art environment located in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight on England's south coast, was a popular place to visit. People who wanted to take a look didn't have to pay an entrance fee, but were supposed to buy some postcards with pictures of the site.

Nowadays these postcards are still on sale on the internet.

Here is another one:

Postcards in abundance, but Attrill's creation doesn't exist anymore.

In the early 1990s the decorations have been removed after the house was sold to new owners, who apparently were not happy with tourists intruding the property.

another postcard, 
published on Flickr by lovedaylemon

There is an amusing story related to this art environment. It says that when young Freddy in 1852 collected shells on the beach, his bucket was kicked by another boy. Freddy kicked back, not knowing that the other boy was prince Albert Edward, the son of Queen Victoria, who owned a holiday home -Osborne House- at the Isle of Wight.

When the queen heard about the incident, she praised Freddy because of his aplomb to defend his shells and (as the story goes) rewarded him with some money. The story goes on saying that this incident might be at the origin of Attrill's creative effort.

In memory of this beach incident, in 2009 a stone carving and plaque have been installed on Columbine Road, close to Attrill's place of living.

Frederick Attrill
Shell decorated house
Cambridge Road
East Cowes, Isle of Wight, South East England, UK
site doesn't exist anymore
streetview (of Columbine road, with the plaque)
streetview (of Cambridge Road)


  1. Dear Henk:
    What a shame to hear that such a charming place no longer exists on this world, but at the same time if it is for any consolation, at least it vanished leaving a trace behind. Interesting story that of Mr. Attrill´s childhood, as it showed his determinated attitude. What surprises me the must, and certainly is a question nobody ever will be able to explain me is that if the new owners didn´t want to receive any attention from the tourist, why in heaven they managed to bought the property in first place?? Regards.

  2. Hello! incredible work! I love that place. I've just discovered your blog and have spent quite some time on it. I find it very interesting as I share your enthusiasm for that sort of wild art. Bye from France. Odile

  3. Bonjour Odile, Merci bien pour ce nessage. Hope you enjoy my trip along all this wonderfull creations. Il-en-y-a beaucoup en France. All the best. Henk

  4. Thanks for the message on my blog. This has led me to yours and what a fascinating discovery it is!

    In this example, I can't believe that somebody would buy such a house then complain when people want to visit it!

  5. Yes, i have heard before of this place and saw photographs of it. So lovely and such ashame that the new owners removed it all.
    First time visiting your blog and i like it a lot.

    Groetjes, Momo Luna

  6. My name is Fred Attrill, and i'm from the Isle of Wight too.
    My dad is Frederick Attrill, born and raised on the IoW.
    Do you have any other family history surrounding this Fred & his shell house?!

  7. Dear Fred,
    I wish I had more stories about mr Atrill (and his family) who made this wonderful shell creation but I could trace no more details than I related in the post. Thanks a lot for contacting me. All the best!