Strawberry Hill House: Horace Walpole’s Gothic Castle
A spectacular hidden treasure, created by Horace Walpole in the 18th century, Strawberry Hill House is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture. It also inspired the first gothic novel The Castle of Otranto.
Visiting Strawberry Hill is a truly theatrical experience. Magically lit by a unique collection of renaissance glass, its gloomy castle-like hall and grey gothic staircase lead dramatically to the magnificence of the gallery.
Walpole called his castle a ‘plaything house’ and in choosing the gothic style for Strawberry Hill he deliberately avoided the fashionable classical idioms of his time: columns, pediments, order and symmetry.
In collaboration with a group of amateur architect friends he based his designs on the architecture of the great gothic cathedrals and abbeys. Medieval tombs, arched doorways, rose windows and carved screens were models for his fireplaces, windows, doors and ceilings. Books of prints rather than the buildings themselves were his reference point and, instead of carved stone, the rooms and ornament of Strawberry Hill are wood, plaster and papier mache.
The Strawberry Hill Trust, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has recently undertaken a £9 million repair and restoration of Walpole’s villa including painstaking conservation of the renaissance glass.
The Garden was created in contrast to the fashion of the time, a riot of informality. Walpole’s garden design included winding paths, lilacs, syringas and honeysuckles ‘hanging down in festoons’.