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Posted:  Monday 16 October 2017

South East Associates
Strawberry Hill House

– Wednesday 12th July -

Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, is the Georgian Gothic creation and home of Horatio Walpole, 4th Earl of Oxford, famous antiquarian, politician, man of letters and author of ‘The Castle of Otranto’ - the first Gothic ‘Horror’ Romance.

The house is considered to be the forerunner of the Gothic Revival movement, the houses of parliament being the most prominent example.

The Gothic revival movement began in the mid-18th century and was a reaction against the burgeoning industrial revolution, machine re-production and the appearance of factories.

It was inspired by medievalism - a harking back to the art, architecture and literature of the middle ages, and paralleled the Arts & Crafts and Pre-Raphaelite movements.

The 'Red and Gold' room

Walpole was son of Britain’s first prime minister Robert Walpole, and was a very wealthy - over £3000 per year in 1750! - man-about town.  He was a MP for thirteen years but never bothered to visit his west country constituency!

Strawberry Hill was essentially a show house - he lived in a cottage across the road - a secular cathedral to occasionally iffy taste: fantastical fireplaces, outrageous wallpaper, glorious windows and an amazing library.


The house was completed in 1754.

He did the 'Grand Tour'
with a friend
and amassed a huge collection
of artefacts, paintings,
ceramics, and books,
which populated the house.


Alongside is the
'Stair Guardian'


After his death, the house passed to a series of distant relatives, the last of which spent the family fortune, and as a result had to sell the collections and contents in 1842.  In 1923 it was bought by St Mary’s University and turned into a teacher training college.  Fortunately for visitors, the Strawberry Hill Trust was formed to preserve and maintain the house.  It reopened recently after a £9M restoration.

A remarkable if occasionally outrageous place, it is well worth a visit.  Twenty-six of the South East Associates enjoyed an excellent 90-minute expert guided tour, and a good lunch in the Cloisters dining room.

Kevin Williams

(fd  15/10/2017)

(ph  16/10/2017)

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