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Peter Allan (September 6, 1799August 31, 1849) was an English recluse and eccentric who carved rocks in the Marsden Bay at Marsden, South Shieldsmarker into a house.

Early life

Born to Peter Allan, a shoemaker in Gladsmuirmarker and Jane Renny, who was the daughter of Archibald Kenley of Tranentmarker, Allan was initially a valet to Williams Williamson and a gamekeeper for the Marquess of Londonderry. He later ran a tavern in the village Whitburnmarker on the Durham coast.


After becoming infatuated with and working at the quarries near his property, he decided to turn a limestone cliff in the Marsden Grottomarker in the Marsden Bay into an actual house. He carved out fifteen rooms which connected to a farmhouse and tavern (The Grotto) on the cliff above.

He mostly remained with his wife and children in the rock and did not often visit the surrounding towns. He also saved a number of boats offshore and a group of children from drowning. In 1848 the lord of the manor attempted to eject him based on his ownership of the above land. Allan successfully defended his right to live at the spot in a lawsuit, but died on August 31, 1849, perhaps affected by the stress. The structure, which became a sort of public attraction, was obliterated by a collapse of the cliff in February 1865. The Grottomarker remains, connected to a hotel.


Although the history has some documentary backing, some insist that the story is exaggerated. Alan Robinson wrote a book in the 1970s denying the notion that Allan was a hermit. [169283]

External links

  • - pictures and history of the Allan, the pub, and the area
  • - Mysteries of the Grotto


  • Sidney Lee, ‘Allan, Peter (1799-1849)’, rev. H. C. G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

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