I think I must have read about Strawberry Hill House on one of those lists of unusual things to do in London which I often reference. It was the home of Horace Walpole, son of England’s first Prime Minister and the author of The Castle of Otranto, the Gothic novel which was inspired by his home.
Walpole bought a house in 1747 and over the years began to transform it into the Gothic home you can see above. I have to say here that the guides were all excellent, and even though each room had a guide stationed in it they were all so enthusiastic and I did actually have questions, that it was a very pleasant experience to go around.
The house is undergoing restoration at the moment, an ongoing project, but there is still plenty to see. The first item of interest is the entrance hall dominated by the staircase with the stone coloured trompe l’oeil on the walls copied from the tomb of Prince Arthur in Worcester Cathedral.
There are many beautiful rooms in the house, mostly empty since one of the previous occupants sold off all of Walpole’s belongings – including the majority of a collection of items he’d spent all his life acquiring.
Libraries are always a favourite of mine, and the one in Strawberry Hill certainly stands out in terms of design.
The books are housed in Gothic arches, as you can see above, each marked with a letter of the alphabet. Walpole himself designed the ceiling and it is original to the house. It has a Crusade’s theme, and includes Walpole’s coat of arms and family motto.
The Gallery is another stunningly beautiful room. The design of the ceiling is based on the aisle of Henry II’s chapel at Westminster Abbey and is made of papier mache.
Another room I liked, mostly it has to be said for the ceiling, is the Tribune Room. Named after the room in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence where the best treasures were kept, this is where Walpole kept his collections of medals, coins, etc.
Originally the floor would have been carpeted with a star in the middle, reflecting the star in the ceiling.
The Round Drawing Room was of interest because of its beautiful stained glass windows, though these are nineteenth-century additions to the house, rather than being original.
There are some gardens to wander around as well as a video about the restoration work, a very small museum and when I was there an exhibition on the work of Anne Seymour Damer, Walpole’s niece and to whom he left Strawberry Hill.
It is a beautiful house, clearly being run well and with a great deal of love, so if you’re feeling like seeing somewhere new (only 40 mins out from Waterloo) I couldn’t recommend Strawberry Hill House highly enough.
You can find more photos to tempt you to visit here.