The Grotto

1 : Introduction to Stourhead
2 : Stourton Village
3 : Stourton Church

4 : Stourhead Gardens
5 : Stourhead Grotto
6 : Stourhead Pantheon

7 : Stable Yards and Kitchen Gardens
8 : Stourhead House

The Grotto, commissioned by Henry Hoare and built by Henry Flitcroft, was constructed in 1748. It is a large domed rocky chamber with anterooms lined with flint, pebbles and tufa.

There are no shells here. The stones, some possibly volcanic, were brought over to England from Italy.

Grottos were popular in Italian Renaissance gardens as places of retreat from summer heat. In the summer of 1762 Henry recorded his enjoyment, cooling off here.

The following is with acknowledgement to 'Simon' in 'Flickr' dated 2009 :

"A tunnel leads into a flinted room and on to the main chamber. The floor is of pebbles arranged in circles and of many colours.

"Beneath another arch, there is a white painted lead statue of Ariadne, a sleeping nymph on a marble plinth. The fresh water from the River Stour cascades over her mossy bed into a shallow pool and is then conveyed out into the lake via a stone conduit."

Stourhead Grotto's 'Nymph' and 'River God' statues were both created for Flitcroft by John Cheere (1709-1787), a famous lead maker of the period. The two grotto statues at Stourhead are noted to be two of his greatest works. Lead was commonly used as a media for statues, urns and the like, as it was of a very durable nature and very strong, and could be painted or even gilded.

In front of the pool is inscribed a verse translated by Alexander Pope from the Latin originally written by Cardinal Bembo :

Nymph of the Grot these sacred springs I keep,
And to the murmur of these waters sleep;
Ah! Spare my slumbers, gently tread the cave,
And drink in silence, or in silence lave.

The River God's Cave with the painted lead statue of the River God by John Cheere circa 1751 (left and below).

The source of the River Stour is engineered to flow from the urn upon which the River God is sitting. The cave entrance was added in 1776.

Hoare was probably attempting to recreate the scene from Virgil's Aeneid in which Aeneas meets the nymphs and the River God and is shown the way to the Pantheon and the altar of Hercules.

The view of the lake and Palladian Bridge from the Grotto (above).

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