Debbie Blott is the founder of The Decorcafe.
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The Waldegrave Suite, Home of the Infamous Lady Waldegrave
Join us at The Strawberry Hill Christmas Fair on 25th November, in new rooms; The Waldegrave Suits, home of the infamous Lady Waldegrave. A lovely way to combine shopping for Christmas gifts from original exhibitors with historic sight-seeing.
The Waldegrave Suite is the creation of the infamous Lady Waldegrave. Inside the St Mary’s part of the property, reached through the Strawberry Hill House Garden.
Famous for marrying four times and saving Strawberry Hill House from ruin, Lady Waldegrave was as empowered as she was eccentric. She initially inherited Strawberry Hill House through marriage to John Waldegrave, the grandson and successor to Horace Walpole’s great niece, Elizabeth Waldegrave.
Following John’s death in 1840 after just one year of marriage, Lady Waldegrave married his brother, George. But within seven months of this marriage George was sent to prison for ‘riotous behaviour’, and Walpole’s precious collection was dispersed worldwide and Strawberry Hill House was abandoned. Yet after George’s death in 1846, Lady Waldegrave was left a substantial sum, and, ten years later, in 1856, after marrying her third husband, Gravelle Harcourt, she began to expand and embellish Strawberry Hill, remaining largely faithful to Walpole’s vision.
The Waldegrave Drawing Room was part of Lady Waldegrave’s expansion of Walpole’s Little Gothic Castle into the premier headquarters of the Liberal party. In addition to moving the road to create a horseshoe drive, and raising the grand tower, she built her grand Drawing Room, Dining Room and Billiard Room, so creating the perfect venue to entertain and promote the Liberal party’s interest. Lady Waldegrave constructed comfortable spaces that would encourage interaction, furnishing her rooms around central salon pieces with sofas and small portable chairs in clusters to encourage intimate conversation between men of importance.
Marrying again in 1863 to the politician Chichester Fortescue, Lady Waldegrave became a renowned political hostess. Her Saturday to Monday parties were attended not only by politicians including Gladstone and Disraeli, but by Dickens, and Edward Lear and even the Prince and Princess of Wales. The artist Millais said of her hospitality,
Her Saturday to Monday parties were proverbially enjoyable. Rank and talent met and mingled there on equal terms of amity and good fellowship. Whoever might or might not be there, there would certainly be no dul[l]ness in that delightful house that Society is apparently fond of inflicting upon itself.
We very much hope that you will join us to mingle in good fellowship on Sunday 25th November to shop from more than 40 original exhibitors in Lady Waldegrave’s Drawing Room and Suite. Tickets are £4 paid on the door
We strongly recommend combining a visit to the Christmas Fair with a once in a lifetime opportunit to visit “The Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill House Exhibition”. An incredible accomplishment bringing together more than 200 of Horace Walpole’s original collection and placing them back to be seen in Strawberry Hill House.
Strawberry Hill House Christmas Fair: 10.00am to 4pm Sunday 25th November. Tickets £4 on the door.