Obituary: Diana Reynell – Grotto Designer

Diana Reynell, grotto designer, died on August 1st 2017, at the age of 83.

Diana first came to Marlborough College with her husband, Antony Reynell, as a master and head of classics. Diana taught jewellery design at the college, and put together costumes for school plays. It was here where she started her career as a grotto designer. Her very first restoration project was the grotto below the Marlborough Mound on the Marlborough College site. After being neglected for many years, the grotto had become a store shed, but Diana was determined to restore it to its former purpose.

Following the successful restoration of the grotto, Diana went on to restore and reintroduce many grottoes, shell rooms, and chandeliers that had been left, some had been without them for more than two centuries.

Diana later became known as “the queen of grotto restorers and makers”, commissioned to such places as Hampton Court House, Richmond’s shell pavilion at Goodwood House and the Bath House at Walton Hall. One of her most impressive works is the large grotto, made to represent the underworld, at Leeds Castle. It was the first built in England in over two centuries. Diana’s training in figurative drawing at the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford proved very helpful as she fashioned mythical figures in the grotto.

Reynell’s attention to detail, and desire for perfection were just a couple of the reasons she gained such a formidable reputation within the industry.