The importance of the Grotto and its deteriorating condition are undisputed. Since 1993, efforts have been made to achieve a restoration of the grotto, with the support of many organisations including Garden History Society, Royal Fine Arts Commission, V&A Museum, London Parks and Gardens Trust, and National Heritage Memorial Fund. The establishment of Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust in 2004 and the writings of Anthony Beckles Willson have succeeded in keeping the issue in the public eye and in the minds of successive owners.
When Radnor House School bought the site in 2010, they invited Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust to join them in developing an achievable project for the conservation of the Grotto. Previous proposals were studied and reasons for their failure understood. It was decided to undertake a modest restoration because the grotto is integral to the school buildings, therefore unsuitable for leasing to PGPT nor accessible to the public during school hours.
Thanks to funding from Historic England and others in 2015 Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust was able to commission a conservation statement (prepared by Odgers Conservation Consultants) and a conservation management plan for the grotto (drawn up by Donald Insall Associates). These documents informed a pilot project to conserve the south chamber in 2017.
An application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for £247,200 made in 2019 was successful, but work was inevitably delayed thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Donald Insall Associates and Odgers Conservation Consultants were appointed in 2021 to lead a project to conserve the remaining areas of the grotto, and install new interpretation and a lighting scheme that will evoke Alexander Pope’s sparkling reflections from the river and candle light mirrored in the stones and glass. Taylor Pearce Ltd were awarded the conservation contract in 2022 and are working over the school summer holidays to remove the modern concrete floor, clean and consolidate the minerals that line the grotto, and restore key features including Pope’s mirrored arch.
We are most grateful to all the funders who have supported our work to date, and you can find a full list on our Supporters page. We still have a slight shortfall in funds to complete the project; our match-funding target is £17,500 and contributions to help us achieve it will be very welcome. You can make a donation through our Donations page.