November 25, 2022

Lucy Dorrrieu-Smith, Shell House in Tresco Abbey Garden

photo by Colin Park (July 2011)
licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0 

About 28 miles west of Lands End, the most south-westerly area of England, is the small island of Tresco (about 3,5 by 1,75 kms),  part of a small group of islands called the Isles of Scilly.

Tresco Island is home to a 40-acre (16 hectares) horticular garden called Abbey Garden, constructed in 1834 by Augustus Smith on and around the ruins of a 12th century Benedictine priory, using the large amount of stones in the ruins of the old priory to make decorative gates and walls.

The garden has thousands of species of plants and flowers from the southern hemisphere and the subtropics, which is almost unbelievable given the island's location in the Atlantic Ocean,

And then, it also includes a Shell House. situated on a hill at the end of the stairway, as portrayed in the above image.

photo by Stephen McKay (May 2019)
licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0

Lucy Dorrieu-Smith and her creation

This Shell House, a hexagonal structure with a gabled roof and open front, as pictured above, was created by Lucy Dorrieu-Smith 

She is the wife of Robert Smith, descendant of the previously mentioned  August Smith, a wealthy banker who in 1930 obtained the island on a long-term lease from the Duchy of Cornwall, who owns Tresco in private status.. 

The couple lives on the island in their Tresco Abbey home and takes care of the maintenance of the nearby Abbey Gardens.

photo by Oliver Dixon (April 2011)
licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0

In 1987 a storm destroyed much of Abbey Garden. In the context of its restoration, Lucy Dorrieu-Smith came up with the idea of providing the garden with a shell decoration situated in a structure on the hill. 

She asked the renowned shell artist Mrs Blott Kerr-Wilson for advice and then single-handedly covered the walls of the structure she had designed herself, with colorful frescoes composed of shells found on the isles of  Scilly, a project that was completed in 1994.

As the pictures show, the wall decoration shows in particular a triptych of vases richly filled with flowers, a large one in the middle and two smaller ones that flank the large one. The entire artwork consists of five panels, each of which is provided with two letters on the top, the initials of the first names of Lucy Dorrieu-Smith's children

photo by John Rostron (2010)
licensed under Creative Commons 
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Compared to other European countries, the United Kingdom and Ireland, surrounded by seas and an ocean as they are, have many art environments composed of shells. Lucy Dorrieu-Smith's creation bears  resemblance to the Curraghmore shell house in Ireland, decorated in the 1750s by Catherine de la Poer, part of a wealthy family.

* Article  (October 2019) by Karen Ivy on her website 
* Article ( August 2019) by Rich Edwards on his weblog
* Article (August 2013) by Bonny Bonafilla on her weblog

YouTube has some videos portraying the Tresco Abbey Gardens, but the Shell House generally only gets a few shots

Lucy Dorrieu-Smith
Shell House in Tresco Abbey Garden
Island of Tresco, Scilly Isles, UK
visitors welcome (entrance fee)

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