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Strawberry Hill House: Horace Walpole's Gothic Castle

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at and my theatre reviews at
Published April 26th 2012
Horace Walpole, son of England's first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, created 'a little Gothic castle' at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. His seventeenth century house was greatly increased in size and adorned with battlements and towers to create a theatrical experience of architecture and design. He wrote the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, and began the craze for anything Gothic, which lasted well into the nineteenth century.

Strawberry Hill House
The Outside of Strawberry Hill House - Picture Courtesy of

After extensive renovation Strawberry Hill House re-opened to visitors in 2010. It also hosts a wide programme of events and supports further learning on the subjects of Gothic Art and architecture, history and literature. In addition it is also strongly involved in outreach learning projects for all ages, as well as those with physical and learning disabilities.

Strawberry Hill is an assault on the senses and achieves exactly what its eighteenth-century owner set out to accomplish; to make visitors aware of its theatricality. On entering the house you are aware of the gloominess of the grey surroundings in the dark entrance hall and stairway, that were lit by a single candle in the gothic chandelier over the stairs, but your breath will be taken away by the sheer amount of glitz and gilding in the upstairs gallery.

Strawberry Hill House
The Gloomy Hall and Staircase

Strawberry Hill House
The Gallery

Strawberry Hill House
Fireplace in the Gallery

The house is a building of contrasts; of grey and gloom, gleaming gold, gothic spires and richly coloured stained glass windows. Goths and lovers of bling will feel equally at home at Strawberry Hill. The refurbishment work is a continuing project as furniture is still being created to replace the contents of the house that were dispersed in 1842, and a request has gone out for eighteenth-century books to line the empty shelves of the library. The garden are also being re-laid out as they would have been in Walpole's time.

Strawberry Hill House
Stained Glass Windows in the Great Parlour

Visits are pre-bookable and accompanied by a video presentation and audio guides. However staff are available in all rooms and are bursting to share their knowledge in a passionate display for the property. Whether you love, or know nothing about, the Gothic I'm sure you'll fall in love with Strawberry Hill.

Strawberry Hill House
Fireplace in the Great Parlour

Strawberry Hill House
Gothic Doorway

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Why? To be amazed
When: 31 March - 31 October 2012, Monday - Wednesday 14.00-16.20, Saturday and Sunday 12.00-16.20. Check the website for Twilight Tours.
Where: Waldegrave Road, Twickenham
Cost: 8 but there are various concessions
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