I had arranged to come out early to Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole’s suburban retreat by the Thames in Twickenham, which he bought in 1747 from Mrs. Chenevix, the toy seller, and gradually added to and gothicised during the course of his life with the help of his friend, John Chute, whom he had met on the Grand Tour. The building history is immensely complicated, beginning with a small house of the 1690s which was redecorated, stained glass inserted in the windows and flock wallpaper by Thomas Bromwich, some of which survives in a cupboard. In 1753, a grand gothic library was added, based on Chute’s drawings of Old St. Paul’s, together with a gothic staircase, designed by Richard Bentley, son of the classical scholar. Then, Walpole’s ideas got grander and he added a gallery, based on Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey, and the Tribune, which was his cabinet of curiosities. It’s a fascinating combination of collecting, antiquarianism and slightly more playful ancestor worship.
This is the exterior:-
This is the new gothic staircase added in 1753:
This is the chimneypiece by William Robinson (he was a surveyor in the Office of Works) in the breakfast room based on a drawing by William Kent:-
This is the original eighteenth-century Bromwich wallpaper:-
These are examples of Flemish stained glass in the windows:-
This is the painting of the ceiling in the library by Andien de Clermont, which has survived intact:-
This is the decoration in the Gallery, described by Thomas Gray as ‘all Gothicism and gold and crimson’:-
And, finally, this is the Tribune:-
5 thoughts on “Strawberry Hill”
I went the other day inspired by A G D ‘s “Gothic” on telly. Visitors were herded into the little entrance courtyard and kept prisoner for 30 minutes in the freezing cold while the volunteer guide bored on about the Waldegrave family while the light faded with all hope of taking any photographs. Next time I will go in the summer and rudely push through the front door.
Doesn’t sound great ! Charles
‘with the help of his friend, John Chute, with whom he had gone on the Grand Tour’…
My recollection, on a library-less sunday morning in sunny Firenze, is that Walpole didn’t go on the Grand Tour with Chute, but merely met him during his trip. He went on the Grand Tour with the slightly older but socially inferior, albeit-fellow-old-Etonian Thomas Gray, whom he jilted in Reggio (Emilia), after tiffing… in sunny Firenze (I wonder whether the bad influence of fellow-bachelor Horace Mann might have been a factor?)… x e
Dear Edward, As ever, of course, you’re right and I’ve corrected my post accordingly. Glad you’re still following it ! Charles
Thank you, Charles. I’ve known Strawberry Hill for twenty plus years but am ashamed to say that the details you photographed were all new to me. Terrible that you can think you know a place despite never really looking at its detail.