For National Poetry day we thought you might like to hear about The Grotto Poem, and our rather illustrious modern-day poetry connection.
So here’s the poem written by a young gentleman in the 1840s for Fanny Newlove, one of the children who discovered the Grotto. It was deemed by James Newlove, her rather strict father, to be “milksop moonshine” so he confiscated it, shutting it in his desk. As Fanny later recalled: ” .. he used to send me to fetch things out of the desk for him, and so one day I saw the verses and kept them, and then when I took to shewing the Grotto, I had them printed, and used to spout them; they were so applicable.”
Fanny owned and operated the Grotto from 1857 to ’69, so it’s likely this poem was recited very many times.
Our archivist has recently discovered that Sir Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate from 1999 to 2009, is a direct descendent (4th Great-grandson to be precise) of James Newlove. We have a sneaking suspicion that Sir Andrew might also take a dim view of Fanny’s verse
Enter, the scene that greets you here
No common scrutiny demands;
These walls though perfect they appear,
Were fashioned not by modern hands.
The sea, long centuries ago
Cast forth from its mysterious cells
The stores here ranged, a goodly show
Of beautiful and glistening shells.
These by ingenious hands were wrought
In accurate and close array;
And eager crowds, I doubt not sought
The Grotto of an Ancient day.
Beneath the shrouding earth concealed,
Long was it suffered to remain;
Till accident its site revealed
And drew it to the world again.
Gaze on the shells so aptly placed
In graceful well-proportioned lines:
Mark well the harmony and taste
Shown in the various quaint designs.