Saint James's Day and Grottoes.
It is the custom of the children in this neighbourhood (Leytonstone, Essex) on the festival of St. James, July 25th, and on the few following days, to erect little structures of clinkers or rubbish on the edges of the pavement, to which they attract attention by their persistent appeals to "Please to remember the grotto."
During the past grotto season (1904) I invited several of the older boys into the garden and watched them construct one of their edifices.
The Size varies; roughly perhaps it is some two feet across, eighteen inches deep, and eighteen inches high.
The Structure consists of floor, back, side-walls and roof; the front is left partly open. The roof is formed by placing sticks across the walls and then piling stones upon them, the general form of the roof being that of a dome.
Flowers. The outside of the structure is ornamented with flowers pushed in between the crevices.
Materials. If possible, shells—oyster shells for choice—are procured, but generally, as a matter of fact, the clinkers and stones are used.
Candle. The first halfpenny given by the passer-by is spent in purchasing a candle, which is put in the grotto and lighted.
The Date for making these grottoes did not seem to them clear. " t is grotto time now," said one, "we see others building them"; "We keep a note-book with the time for peg-tops, leap-frog and grotto time," said others.
Reason for Building. None of them knew of any reason for their erection; no one had ever seen it elsewhere; they had all done it at school, having seen others.