Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Living in London I’m completely spoilt for choice when it comes to feeding my architecture geek tendencies. The Gothic Revival period is one of my favourites, partly due to the intricate and detailed characteristics. Think fairytale castles and knights in shining armour. What do you visualise? Pointed arches, ribbed vaults, spires, flying buttresses, stained glass windows, perhaps? So not surprising that the movement in the late 1700s and onwards was inspired by a literary obsession with medieval times.

Some of London’s iconic landmarks are its finest examples, such as the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge and St. Pancras Railway Station to name a few.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Recently I was invited to explore Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham. The name itself is enticing enough, never mind the fact it’s the earliest known example of the Gothic Revival period.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

A quick train ride led me to suburban south-west London and a stroll down a tree-lined street opening out to a magnificent gleaming white petite castle. The grandeur of the building highlighted further by its residential surroundings. Almost like time has stood still in this enclave of Twickenham.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Horace Walpole the son of the first Prime Minister Robert Walpole was the owner of this extraordinary Gothic creation in the late 18th century. His folly is the first known gothic domestic dwelling. The end result being somewhat eccentric, curious but above all spectacular.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Built in stages Walpole drew inspiration from St Paul’s Cathedral, Henry VII’s Chapel at Westminster Abbey and Uffizi in Florence. The writer and collector filled his extraordinary summer abode with his extensive 6,000 piece collection consisting of books, paintings, furniture and antiquities amassed from his four years of travel across Europe.

Walpole was extremely proud of his masterpiece. Even in those days Strawberry Hill soon became a tourist attraction. Strict rules were applied, one of which being no children and only four people were allowed entry at a time. No surprises, once the initial excitement wore off Walpole handed over the guided tour duties to his housekeeper

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Our tour just like the one back in the day began in the entrance hall with its grand staircase, described by Walpole as ‘the most particular and chief beauty of the castle’. The hall rises through three storeys and is lit by a large stained glass lantern. Introducing you to the main design concept of the house ‘gloomth’, a theatrical effect of light and darkness creating a mysterious and gothic atmosphere.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Not all the rooms embody the ‘gloomth’ theme, each one has a different look and character dependant on the pieces showcased. Here are a few which caught my eye!

The Rooms

The Great Parlour charmed me with its flamboyant gothic fireplace and the three bay Gothic window which looks out to the beautifully landscaped grounds.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

And this ladies and gents is the first Gothic style library in England. It’s a breathtaking room with shelves lined with 18th century literature.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

A book lovers dream, the bookcases were modelled on the choir stalls of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

I immediately fell in love with the colour of the walls in this bedroom. Painted in an exquisite blue made from cobalt and lapis lazuli. The walls themselves making a huge statement as these were very expensive materials to use at this time.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

The bed apparently is one of the first pieces of furniture Walpole moved into the house and also a replica of the one in which Sir Robert Walpole died in 1785.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

The quilt is hand-knotted and took 620 hours to make by the members of the Strawberry Hill Sewing Bee.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

The purple coloured Holbein Chambers, named as it originally housed a number of Holbein copies. Copies of the portraits of members of the Court of Henry VIII now hang on walls.

The ceiling is the first one you see made of papier-maché (wait till you see the second one!). A copy of the Queen’s Dressing Room in Windsor Castle. And a good job too as Walpole’s ceiling was used as a blueprint reproduce the Windsor ceiling after the fire in 1992.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Inspiration for the beautiful fireplace came from the Archbishops tomb at Canterbury Cathedral. The place really is a patchwork of some great Neo-Gothic pieces.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

The interiors of the Round Room boasts a ceiling based on the rose window in St Paul’s Cathedral. In the 19th century Lady Waldegrave made her own additions including this fabulous stained-glass bay window.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Lastly to the pièce de résistance, the stunning Gallery home to Walpole’s cherished paintings. The impressive embellished fan-vaulted ceiling made from 24-carat papier-maché is a glorious contrast against the rich crimson walls.

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Based on Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey, I challenge anyone not to be dazzled by the brilliance of this room. Nowadays the sumptuous surroundings is a popular venue for weddings.

Strawberry Hill House Afternoon Tea

Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

Once the tour is over you can treat yourself in Walpole’s Tea Rooms to a delicious cream tea with views of the delightful five-acre garden.

Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill Exhibition

I can’t believe I didn’t know about this unique architectural gem, if you’re a historical house fan I highly recommend a visit. There is also no better time as from 20th October 2018 – 24th February 2019 the Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill exhibition brings together some of the most important masterpieces in Walpole’s collection. This was one of the most significant collections of the 18th century which was dispersed in the great sale of 1842. We now have the opportunity to see Walpole’s pieces in the interiors as he designed in their original setting. A once-in-a-lifetime exhibition, not to be missed.

Strawberry Hill House also runs a lot of family friendly events. They’re always worth checking out, as it’s a beautiful place to spend time with the family. For more information on Strawberry Hill House or for future events, please visit their website.

Have you been to Strawberry Hill House, if not have I convinced you to visit? Let me know in the comments box below.

sima

Strawberry Hill House | 268 Waldegrave Rd | Twickenham | TW1 4ST

Disclaimer: My tour and afternoon tea were complimentary, however, all views, opinions and photos unless otherwise stated are my own and remain a trademark of the Curious Pixie.

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Strawberry Hill House: Exploring a Gothic Gem

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5 Comments

  1. 9th July 2018 / 11:26 am

    A really fascinating read of such an amazing Gothic property. I would have to agree the cobalt walls are just stunning! This is definitely somewhere I’d like to visit.

  2. 9th July 2018 / 12:00 pm

    I would love to visit! You’ve really outdone yourself with the photos too – so stunning!!!!

    • Sima Sthanakiya
      Author
      9th July 2018 / 3:52 pm

      Ahhh thank you Binny. Beautiful places are easy to photograph x

  3. 10th July 2018 / 6:46 am

    This sounds so beautiful. Absolutely correct about the U.K. and London- so many beautiful hidden places at our door step. The glass stained windows and the interior in this place are just amazing. Thanks for the information

  4. 10th July 2018 / 12:24 pm

    What a stunning building! Must have been fantastic to explore!

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