We have been awarded a grant by National Lottery Heritage fund for the conservation of the grotto and a varied programme of outreach and education activities. Working with partner organisations, the project will provide learning and volunteering opportunities for young people, and a digital reconstruction will create an accessible interactive model of Twickenham and Pope’s villa and garden in 1740.
Our volunteers welcome guests at public open days, explain the history and contents of the Grotto, assist visitors to complete feedback forms and sell tickets and books at the front desk. Volunteers also assist at other events which the Trust organises. Three of them tell us about their experiences volunteering at Pope’s Grotto:
“Hi, my name’s Josie and I’m 17, I’ve been a volunteer at Pope’s Grotto for 2 years. I enjoy volunteering as I am very interested in history and I enjoy keeping busy when I’m not studying for my A Levels. I always find the trustees very friendly and welcoming. The visitors are always very happy to see the grotto and I hope more people come and visit in the future.”
“I was first introduced to the Grotto by Professor Judith Hawley on a university trip for a module I was studying on the 18th Century. I didn’t really know too much about Pope as I had only read a few poems at the time. When I visited I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought that we were visiting a hole in the ground and I wasn’t really sure why it was of interest to a group of university students. I was soon proven wrong. We were given a tour by Judith where she explained what the Grotto used to be like. She pointed out the glittering stones in the walls and told us about how there used to be a camera obscura which reflected an image of the river into Pope’s subterranean sanctuary. I was captivated by the history behind it, from the alabaster lamps to the piece of the Giants Causeway. Little did I know that this would be the inspiration for my undergraduate dissertation (supervised by Judith) and I will soon be writing about Pope for my Master’s thesis at Oxford University. Soon afterwards, Judith sent us an email explaining that the Grotto needed volunteer tour guides and I jumped at the chance to share everything I knew about Pope and his Grotto with others. I have been volunteering there for a year and a half now and the team of trustees and volunteers could not have been more welcoming. There is a real sense of teamwork as everybody wants to help with the restoration work and also sharing what we know with the visitors. I hope that I can inspire somebody the way Judith inspired me. I look forward to every open day and fundraising event and I can’t wait until further restoration work can be done.”
(Harriet was awarded a scholarship by Jesus College, Oxford, to read for a Masters degree in 18th century studies)
“I volunteer on Open Days because of my previous contact with the Grotto as a trustee. I am very interested in the history of Strawberry Hill and the impact on the area of Alexander Pope. I always enjoy talking to the visitors and helping them to appreciate the Grotto and the importance of AP to the local area.”