16 Mar 2011
avatar Author: Nicky Haslam

I was fascinated to have been recently invited to have a sneak preview of the newly restored Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, as much to my chagrin I have never before seen it. This house, the project and creation of Horace Walpole is one of Britain’s finest examples of Georgian Gothic architecture.  Horace bought the site in 1747 and at first transformed two small cottages into a ‘little gothic castle’ and these gradually grew into the fantasy ‘palace’ one sees today. Horace is known as a man of letters, as well as an avid collector of all things curious, in particular Cardinal Wolsey’s hat, a pair of gloves belonging to James I and the spurs worn by King William in the Battle of the Boyne.

During Walpole’s time spent at Strawberry Hill, the public could visit his property, and unique for those days, view the collection for a small fee. It was here that he also saw an apparition one night which inspired his gothic fantasy novel ‘The Castle of Otranto’ which in turn became the inspiration for Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’. Alas, I did not come away with a new idea for a novel, however one cannot fail to be in awe of this architectural gem, as well as the quality of craftsmanship which has been employed in the painstaking restoration of this wonderful property.

Our hosts for the day was the incredibly knowledgeable guide Raymond Daniel-Davies, and Cathy Giangrande from the World Monuments Fund Britain, an architectural preservation charity that assisted along with other donors in the funding of this project. As Strawberry Hill being so unique a concept, it is up there on a par with the Taj Mahal and the Chinese Palace outside St Petersburg.

Interestingly the WMF are also working on fundraising for Shobdon Church in Herefordshire, quite possibly one of the prettiest church’s to be found, and directly linked to Strawberry Hill though the Gothic revival style and used as a Christmas card from World of Interiors last year. I could bang on for hours about Strawberry Hill and the fascinating history of the place, and so would you once you have visited this marvel yourself. In the meantime I hope the following photographs will suitably inspire you by its restoration, design, ornament and glamour, and also perhaps inspire you to write a gothic novel.

5 Responses to “STRAWBERRY HILL”

  1. How divine a place. I will certainly plan a visit when I am in UK(which will be in 7 days-Hurrah) thanks for the heads up!

  2. wonderful tour! would love to come up with a costume novel. anything would work in such an inspired setting-

    Present day, designer enters HW’s newly renovated Strawberry Hill and has a flashback to the era, then another- there was a murder. Is it one from Walpole’s day or is it in the present? While the designer is sleuthing this murder, his own life becomes threatened, are they related? Was HW a serial killer? or did the decorator do it? Will his obsessive nature on the subject ruin his latest project? Will the girl save the day? Can she break him out of this Gothic time warp? All sorts of fashion options abound at this point! and the able bodied C. will be caught up in the horror too-Who will save who?

  3. avatar colette says:

    PGT – laughing out loud…lets not forget film rights too!! You know i recently sat beside Tom Stoppard at lunch and he was certain there was a script to be written on our industry so this may be exactly the twist needed. x

  4. Although not Stawberry Hill Gothick, St Michael’s, Aigburth (Liverpool) is a charming and rare example of a prefabricated cast iron church, and reminds me somewhat of Shobdon. One can view photos here.. http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyknox/4488099505/in/set-72157623766097460/

  5. Although not Strawberry Hill Gothick, St Michael’s, Aigburth (Liverpool) is a charming and rare example of a prefabricated cast iron church, and reminds me somewhat of Shobdon. One can view photos here.. http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyknox/4488099505/in/set-72157623766097460/

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