My enjoyment of the art and architecture in Twickenham has so far been at ground level; however, I am keenly anticipating venturing underground next year and experiencing the restored Pope’s Grotto in Twickenham.
The Grotto lies beneath buildings owned by Radnor House School, and is part of a hidden London that we walk over every day without thinking. In 1720 the great English poet Alexander Pope built a tunnel under Cross Deep to connect his villa and gardens. This year the entire mineral-encrusted chamber, which runs under Cross Deep in Twickenham, will be cleaned and restored. The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded £247,000 towards the project, with donations coming from a range of other charities. The renovation will include digital interactive materials of the Grotto in its eighteen-century glory; there will also be public events, such as guided tours and talks.
In 2022, Pope’s Grotto will be open 30 days a year for the public to enjoy. A visit will give us an opportunity to momentarily leave our day-to-day egos behind and take a deep dive into the historical unconscious of Twickenham. The UK should be justly proud of its history of preserving heritage sites for future generations. Pope expressed the importance of cherishing national heritage culture when he wrote: ‘Make failing arts your care/Erect new wonders and the old repair’.
Dates and booking procedures for visits can be found on the Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust’s website popesgrotto.org.uk.
Dr Richard Mills is Senior Lecturer in Literature and Popular Culture at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. He is the author of The Beatles and Fandom: Sex, Death and Progressive Nostalgia (Bloomsbury 2019) and the forthcoming The Beatles and Black Music: Post-colonial Theory, Musicology and Remix Culture (Bloomsbury 2022).
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