Strawberry Hill House - History and Facts | History Hit

Strawberry Hill House

Amy Irvine

21 May 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Strawberry Hill House

Strawberry Hill House is a beautiful example of Gothic Revival architecture. It was built by Horace Walpole, son of Sir Robert Walpole (Britain’s first Prime Minister) and the author of ‘The Castle of Otranto’, the world’s first gothic novel.

History of Strawberry Hill House

In 1747, Horace Walpole discovered and purchased ‘Chopp’d Straw Hall’ – one of the last remaining sites available on the banks of the Thames in Twickenham, consisting of a couple of cottages.

Walpole and two friends (connoisseur and amateur architect John Chute and draughtsman and designer Richard Bentley) called themselves the ‘Committee of Taste’ to modify the architecture of the building. Horace set about transforming the site into his vision of a ‘little Gothic castle’ with turrets, battlements, a round tower and a gleaming white façade – expanding the property to 46 acres.

Built as Walpole’s summer residence, the castle-like house interested local residents, and soon became a tourist attraction. Walpole welcomed royalty, aristocracy and touring visitors into his creation, and was as meticulous in designing and developing his gardens as he was improving his house.

The popularity of Strawberry Hill House was a key contributing factor in the emergence of Gothic Revival architecture in the 18th and 19th centuries, inspired by gothic cathedrals around Europe.
After Horace Walpole died in 1797, the house passed to his cousin’s daughter, then to his great niece, Elizabeth Waldegrave, and then to her grandson, John. After John’s death, the house then passed to his brother, George, the 7th Earl of Waldegrave. George let the house fall into ruin, selling most of Walpole’s collection over the course of a week in a ‘Great Sale’ in 1842.

Fortunately, his wife rescued the site after his death in 1846, and expanded and embellished the house adhering to Horace’s vision. Lady Waldegrave added new floors, rooms and Tudor-style chimney pots similar to those of nearby Hampton Court Palace. After her death in 1879, the House was bought by the De Stern family, and sold in 1923 to St Mary’s University College who still own the site.

Strawberry Hill House today

In 2007, the house was leased to the Strawberry Hill Trust for restoration, and a collection from the house featured at the Victoria & Albert Museum from March-July 2010 prior to the reopening of the house on 2 October 2010 following a £9 million, 2 year restoration. In 2013, it won the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage in the Europa Nostra Awards, and was re-opened again to the public on 1 March 2015 by The Walpole Trust.
Today visitors enjoy tours of the house as well as of the surrounding gardens, which are free to enter. In Winter, a small outdoor ice-rink is set-up for ice-skating.

Getting to Strawberry Hill House

Trains run from London Waterloo to Strawberry Hill station, a 5-10 minute walk from the house. The nearest tube is the District Line to Richmond. From there, the R68 bus goes to Strawberry Hill – alight at Michelham Gardens. Trains also stop at nearby Twickenham, a 15 minute walk to the house. Bus 33 also stops nearby the house. Limited free parking is available.

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