Inventory Site Record

Pope's Grotto *

Pope's Grotto * (Richmond)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

In 1719 poet and satirist Alexander Pope took a lease on 2 or 3 cottages at Cross Deep, built a new villa here and developed classically-styled gardens until his death in 1744. Pope's Villa was demolished in 1808 and his gardens have now gone, altered and built over in the C19th and C20th. All that remains is the grotto-tunnel he built in c.1722 to link the villa with the gardens, albeit much barer than in Pope’s time and longer due to early C20th road widening. In 1740-43 he had extended the grotto-tunnel with flanking caves and ‘rough stonework and encrustations of shells, minerals, coral and stalactites, intended to epitomise the subterranean riches of the world’, using supplies sent from Cornwall and elsewhere by friends. The grotto was a visitor attraction after his death. Sir William Stanhope later owned the villa until 1772, making alterations to house and garden. The current house on the site was a convent, then a school, now owned by Radnor House School.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Radnor House School
Site location:
Cross Deep, Twickenham
Type of site:
Garden Feature Remnants
Open to public?
By appointment only
Opening times:
or during Twickenham's Festival Week in June (enquiries to Radnor House School 020 8891 6264;
Special conditions:
Opens for Twickenham Festival (June)
Public transport:
Rail: Strawberry Hill. Bus: R68, 33.

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2014
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see

Land in Twickenham was acquired by Thomas Vernon from 1700 and by 1718 he owned 6 or 7 properties in Cross Deep. Poet and satirist Alexander Pope (1688-1744) leased 3 adjoining cottages from Vernon, one of which may have been built for him, and he moved there in 1719 with his mother and childhood nurse. He demolished one of the cottages, and part of another, commissioning architect James Gibbs to design a new house on the riverside. He then proceeded to lease further land from Vernon and others for a larger garden. obtaining a licence to create private access between villa and garden by building a tunnel under the road. His garden was designed in the classical style and his villa became a focus for cultural and literary society.

After Pope's death the lease reverted to Vernon. The grotto became the focus for visits, with a plan made by his gardener John Serle in 1745. The villa was sold to Sir William Stanhope, who extended the house and made alterations to the garden, which he surrounded by a wall. He acquired the leases that covered the garden and also purchased additional land to the west where he built a second tunnel under Radnor Road. After Stanhope's death in 1772 the property had a number of private owners and in 1807 was purchased by Baroness Howe, who demolished Pope's Villa, altered the garden and removed much of the grotto's decorative embellishments. She built a new villa to the south, which was itself demolished when the current house was built by Thomas Young, designed by Henry Edward Kendall. This became a convent and later a school. St James Independent School for Boys was here from 1996-2010, and it is now owned by Radnor House School.. In 2005 St James School created a Charitable Trust to 'preserve [the Grotto] for the benefit of the people of Twickenham and of the nation ....', and Pope's Grotto Preservation Trust continued to work to this end before the school left in 2010. A grant from EH has enabled the preparation of detailed options for conservation and restoration. New owner Radnor House School has indicated its support for the restoration project.

What remained of Pope's garden to the west of Cross Deep was divided and partly sold for development, and the area that remained when the convent was here, is now in the separate ownership of another school. The grotto tunnel was lengthened as a result of C20th road widening.

Sources consulted:

EH Register: Country Life, 7/3/1968 p512-514; 'Blest Retreats', LB Richmond, 1984; Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; C Hussey 'English Gardens and Landscapes 1700-1750, p41-44; Anthony Beckles-Willson 'Alexander Pope's Grotto in Twickenham' (joint publication Garden History Society and The Twickenham Society) 1998; Anthony Beckles-Willson 'Mr Pope and Others at Cross Deep, Twickenham in the 18th Century', 1996. History on Pope's Grotto Preservation Trust website

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Radnor House School
Site management:
Radnor House School; Pope's Grotto Preservation Trust
Listed structures:
LBII*: Pope's Grotto. LBII: brick cupola in garden
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

NHLE grade:
Grade II
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Twickenham Riverside
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Thames Policy Area
Other LA designation:

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