In the 1720s, the poet Alexander Pope dug a series of tunnels underneath his house in Twickenham — and 300 years later, they’re open to the public to explore.

This is Pope’s Grotto.

Alexander Pope bought a villa next to the Thames in Twickenham in 1719, and at some point shortly afterwards decided to dig a grotto underneath the house. Atmospheric grottos were a popular folly for the rich to build, but while most are little more than small shallow spaces, Pope dug a long tunnel and two rooms deep under his house.

After Pope’s death, the house was sold and later demolished, and it is now a school. However, underneath, the grotto survived, and a few times a year, it’s open to the public. There are a limited number of dates that you can visit, as you have to go through the school to get to the grotto, so the grotto is only open to the public when the school is closed to pupils.

You have to buy tickets in advance.

After checking your name off, the ticket checker offers lengthy instructions to find the grotto – past the cafe, through the doors, turn right, down the steep stairs, through the arch and warns that people might forget the instructions, but volunteers on the route will help.

Expecting a bit of a walk through the garden, I quickly realised that he could have just said “through the doors and down the stairs”, as it’s actually that close.

You’re free to wander around, and although it’s only two rooms and a long corridor, it’s packed full of atmosphere.

There’s a lot of “after you, no after you, oh sorry was I in the way, let me pass please” in the side rooms as people wait for them to empty to get their preferred photo moments.

It’s certainly not as refined an air as Pope would have expected when he used to have space for friends and relaxation. Oddly, the slightly cramped atmosphere is more fun as we dance around each other to get around the space.

At the far end, the tunnel suddenly turns modern—a later addition that creates access to the grotto from the far side. Now, it is a welcome source of air and light in the dark space and, ahem, spooky photos.

If you fancy 20-30 minutes simply soaking up a very atmospheric space, the remaining opening dates for 2024 are:

  • Sat 10th Aug 2024
  • Sat 12th Oct 2024
  • Sun 20th Oct 2024
  • Sat 9th Nov 2024
  • Sat 7th Dec 2024

Book tickets here.

Next year will also mark the 300th anniversary of the grotto’s completion, or at least the 300th anniversary of when Pope said he downed tools.

Pope’s Grotto is about a 10-15 minute walk from Stawberry Hill or Twickenham stations, both served by SWR trains. There’s a lot to see locally, so you can easily make a day of it.


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