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The large and impressive modern hotel that was the 'Pope's Grotto' takes its name from the poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744), who had a house on the banks of the Thames near the site of the pub.
He delighted in gardening and building his famous grotto. The gardens contained some of the earliest and finest cedar trees from Lebanon and a Spanish willow, cuttings from which were sent to the Empress of Russia in 1789. The garden was cut in two by the road Cross Deep and the grotto was built as an underground passageway to connect the two. On either side was a chamber and these, with the passages, were lined with feldspar, marble from Devon and Cornwall and sea shells.
The best description is given in a letter from Pope to his friend Edwards Blount on 2 June 1725: 'When you shut the doors of this grotto, it becomes on the instant, from a luminous room, a camera-obscura, on the walls of which all objects of the river, hills, woods and boats are forming a moving picture on their visible radiations; and when you have a mind to light it up it affords a very different scene. It is furnished with shells, interspersed with pieces of looking glass in angular forms; and in the ceiling is a star of the same material, at which, when a lamp (of an orbicular figure of this alabaster) is hung in the middle, a thousand pointed rays glitter, and are reflected over the place'.
When Pope died, the house, gardens and grotto were sold and the grotto vandalised by souvenir hunters. In 1807, the house was sold to Baroness Howe, who demolished it and destroyed the grounds. She built a new house about 100 yards to the north of the original. A third house was constructed later called Pope's Villa. The pub was built by Young's in 1852 on part of Pope's old garden, but it was destroyed by bombs in the Second World War and the present building was opened in 1959. It was completely refurbished and upgraded in 2000 into a hotel with 32 bedrooms.