Restoring the Grotto quote

Ian Cotton from Cliveden Conservation re-carves marble in the Grotto

Through years of people visiting the grotto, the inscription in the Italian marble became worn and parts were illegible.

The inscription comes from Alexander Pope’s translation of a pseudo-classical poem and reads: ‘Nymph of the Grot these sacred spring I keep; And to the murmur of these water sleep; Ah! spare my slumbers, gently tread the cave; And drink in silence or in silence lave.’

Thanks to funds donated by the Salisbury and South Wilts National Trust Association, as a part of the ‘Rebuilding the designed Stourhead Landscape project’ we were able to commission Cliveden Conservation to restore the worn lettering which was inscribed in the eighteenth century.

Ian from Cliveden spent a week in the grotto, re-carving the letters using traditional methods and tools. He said “A high degree of hand-eye coordination is required to re-cut each letter using small sharp chisels and lightweight hammers. Interestingly, the chisels used differ only marginally from those that have been used for generations.”

Once Ian had re-carved the letters he introduced a light painted wash so as to allow visitors to easily read the quote.

Ian worked hard to restore the Alexander Pope inscription.
Traditional tools being used to re-carve the marble inscription
Ian worked hard to restore the Alexander Pope inscription.

The carved lettering of the inscription is one of the earliest known examples of the revival of a sans-serif typeface, and is also the inspiration behind the National Trust’s first ever bespoke typeface, created in 2009.

The Grotto itself is a well-loved brick structure covered in Tufa, lit from above by an opening in its dome. It features a sleeping nymph, Ariadne, who lies behind the inscription and overlooks the lake.