28 April 2012

Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill House, near Twickenham

Strawberry Hill House is close to Twickenham and more than twelve miles from the crazy turmoil of the tourist-clogged parts of central London. This was the summer villa of the writer, politician and collector Horace Walpole (1717–97), who in 1747 discovered the site and began transforming a very modest property into a neo-gothic building, in so doing being a forerunner of a highly influential revival. The restoration is considerably impressive.

It took him from the late 1740s until 1776 to complete his project.

This is the entrance to the house that became a tourist attraction even in Walpole's lifetime, and later the style would be termed 'Strawberry Hill gothic'. Walpole had his own ('Strawberry Hill') press here, and in 1784 published a description of the property and its history, along with a detailed description of his collection of pictures, sculptures, furniture, etc.


The staircase in the hall. Richard Bentley designed the balustrade.

An antelope holding a shield crouches at each corner.

The lantern is a copy of the original.

The chimney in the Great Parlour, or the dining-room, designed by Bentley.

And an example of the stained glass windows tops in the Great Parlour.

In another window a cobbler whistles to a caged bird.

The Library, whose books were sold in 1842, and which are now in the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University.

The gothic arches at the top which swing on hinges.

A detail of the ceiling that Walpole conceived, Bentley sketched, and Clermont painted.

The Holbein Chamber, where Walpole displayed his collection of Holbein drawings.
Again, the chimney is by Bentley, largely inspired by Archbishop Warham's tomb in Canterbury.

Leaving the Holbein Chamber, the first glimpse of the Gallery is the fan vaulting, inspired by Henry VII's chapel in Westminster Abbey.

The Gallery was Walpole's principal entertaining room, and is 56 feet long, 17 feet high, and 13 feet wide excluding the recesses.

The chimney piece is by John Chute and Thomas Pitt.

The Round Room seen from the Gallery.

The windows of the Round Room.

The chimney piece was inspired by Edward the Confessor's tomb in Westminster Abbey.

The Tribune held Walpole's most precious treasures, and its ceiling takes its inspiration from the chapter house at York.

Walpole thought that the yellow glass gave the room 'a golden gloom'.

The Great North Bedchamber was merely for show.

Walpole's Beauty Room is now called the Discovery Room, where different ages of the house can be seen.

Here, for instance, we can see the original black and yellow of the chimney piece.
Lady Waldegrave was a 19th century owner of Strawberry Hill House, and this is just a brief glimpse of her bell system.

Finally, it's obviously, er, a folly to look at a garden when the grass is sodden, so I contented myself with a photo of Walpole's (recreated) shell bench and made my way on.

The link below is to more detailed information from Richmond Libraries' Local Studies Collection.
Horace Walpole (1717–97) and Strawberry Hill

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