Pope’s Grotto

Described by Mavis Batey as ‘a seminal event in the eighteenth century search to establish man’s relationship to nature’, the Grotto was created by the poet, translator and satirist, Alexander Pope, from the cellars of his Villa.

Grottoes have strong links to the classical world and Pope was keen to encourage readers of The Guardian, to include ‘the Taste of the Ancients in their Gardens’. And imagine Pope’s delight when he found a natural spring in his grotto – in Homer’s Odyssey (which Pope translated), Naiads, a female spirit or nymph, lived where springs flowed through underground caverns.

In 1745, John Serle, Pope’s gardener published a guide to the Grotto with a description of the minerals used and where they came from. Serle also drew the only known plan of the garden.

Samuel Lewis sketched a plan of the Grotto in 1785 which includes the following annotations: The Cave of Pope [William Kent drew Pope writing in his Cave in 1725], To the Cold Bath, A dark Cavern, A mirror in the Ceiling and a Statue. According to Lewis, the Grotto measured sixty four feet long.

Covered in years of grime and neglect, work has begun by Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust on restoring the Grotto. It is open to the public on certain days of the year – checkĀ  https://popesgrotto.org.uk/ for details. As the Grotto belongs to the school, these times are usually outside the normal school day.

A Virtual Arcadia, a brilliant interactive digital reconstruction of Pope’s Garden has recently been created by Professor Paul Richens for the Trust. The purpose of the reconstruction is for visitors to the grotto to enjoy a virtual tour of the garden and Twickenham in 1740s although I’m not sure when the film will be available.

 

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INFORMATION

Address: Twickenham, London, TW1 4QG View map Length of visit: 1-2 hours

For information on opening times and to buy tickets: Click here

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