Talk:A Virtual Arcadia at The Exchange Twickenham

Talk, Thu 6 Jan 2022

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Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust


75 London Road,

Events at this Venue

date event
Fri 17 - Wed 29 Dec Aladdin
Thu 6 Jan A Virtual Arcadia
Sat 5 Feb The Bob Dylan Story
Fri 18 Mar Brooke Law
Thu 7 Apr Morgan & West: Unbelievable Science
Sat 23 Apr Chris McCausland: Speaky Blinder


Alexander Pope’s arrival in Twickenham in the spring of 1719 coincided with the growing attraction of the place as a seasonal resort for Londoners. Lying along the Middlesex bank of the Thames, more or less equidistant between the Royal Palaces of Richmond and Hampton Court, Twickenham with its cleaner air was only waiting for the arrival of fashionable society. It was the start of a defining period in Twickenham’s social history.

Pope built his villa overlooking the Thames and then laid out a 5-acre garden behind it on the other side of the road. This garden would become one of the most important landscapes in the history of European garden design. It is sometimes considered to be the birthplace of the English landscape garden: a style of naturalistic garden which would, through the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, influence gardens in Europe and beyond. To gain private access to his garden, he constructed a tunnel from his cellar under the road. Later, he decorated this tunnel to form his famous grotto.
The villa was demolished in 1808 and the garden has been progressively overlaid by housing, sports facilities and a car park. Thus, the grotto is now the only remaining part of Pope’s physical works.

Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust has commissioned Professor Paul Richens to create an interactive digital reconstruction of the villa and garden, together with the adjacent Thames and the buildings along the river, using the same technology which makes computer games so engrossing. This allows the audience to gain some understanding of Twickenham in 1740 and, in particular, Pope’s villa and garden, which have been meticulously researched and reconstructed from historical sources. At the same time, we commissioned storyteller Giles Abbott to write and perform the commentary.

The experience starts in a wherry (rowing boat) on the Thames at Twickenham with a local waterman rowing you upriver. You disembark on the lawn in front of Pope’s Villa and walk through the grotto into the garden. Here you can explore the shell temple, the spiral mound, the kitchen garden, the pineapple house, the quincunxes, the vineyard, Pope’s obelisk to his mother and many other features. As you approach the garden’s various features, appropriate quotations from Pope will be voiced.

Event details

Dates Times
Thu 6 Jan 2022 17:30




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Map reference: TQ 164735  Lat: 51.44888 Long: -0.32584