20 April 2015

Visiting Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham Richmond.

Hidden in the opulent suburb of Twickenham, a gothic castle of dreamy spires quietly rests.  

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

You won't believe it, but it has taken me a little over 2 years to visit this particular piece of Richmond history. It's not through want of trying, but rather a lack of memory teamed with the house being open to the public. Every single time I've found myself with a spare afternoon I either haven't remembered to think of Strawberry Hill House, or have eagerly jumped onto the website only to discover that it's a month too early to visit down in the old borough of Surrey. A fail indeed*.

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Luckily in March inspiration struck with the inspired combination of Strawberry Hill House actually being open.

With a few hours up my sleeve, I pottered along the Thames riverbanks stopping here and there for a cuppa, watching exhilarated dogs and their owners play fetch, stumbling upon yet more mansion houses and a breathtaking statue garden in italianate marble. But that's a tale for another day.

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond
 
I met with a local friend (unaware of the existance of such a folly, despite living 9there for 10+ years) and once our allocated slot came up, we ventured into one of the most surprising London establishments I've visited.

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Beginnng life in 1698 as a modest house, built by the coachmen of the Earl of Bradford, Strawberry Hill House was transformed into 'a little Gothic castle' by Horace Walpole, man of letters and the son of England's first Prime Minister. 

Between 1747 and 1792 Walpole doubled its size, creating Gothic rooms and adding towers and battlements in fulfilment of his dream, but also creating a space of rooms perfect for displaying his antiquities, works of art and curios.

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond
 
Known as "the plaything of Walpole and his friends, it established a taste for the Gothic: fireplaces and gilded ceilings like medieval tombs and vaults, painted glass with rustic and biblical scenes and heraldry." 

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Each new room seemed like walking into a fairytale princess' room - in fact my friend struggled the whole way round to choose just the one she would have as her bedroom...

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

I just wanted one and make no apologies for the following statement, but I lusted so hard for Walpole's Library that it was difficult to tear myself away and investigate any other room.

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

So many of Walpole's original design quirks (mostly thanks to a recent £9.8 million restoration) are on display that even without furniture the rooms are rather extraordinary.

Tiles, wallpapering, fireplaces, door handles, furniture, stained glass, animal balustrades, suits of armour, windows,

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

It made returning home to plain white skimmed plaster rather disappointing.

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond
 
Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Just all of it.

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

The building was so grand - even in it's own time - that the public paid a nominal fee to quietly parade through the doors. Walpole went so far to print a small booklet to guide visitors around, and rented a house across the road to escape the crowds of fascinated guests.

Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond
 
Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

Each intentionally gloomy space leading to a breathtaking room of such gothic opulence that it is hardly believable. Unsurprisingly Medieval tombs, arched doorways, rose windows and carved screens were models for his fireplaces, windows, doors and ceilings, but surprisingly are mostly modelled out of wood, plaster and papier mache.

You must go.


*just so you don't do 'an Emma', Strawberry Hill House is usually open March 1 – November 9th but is regularly hired out for weddings and special occasions, and often closes on rugby match days. Check the Strawberry Hill House website for details.

19 comments :

  1. Wow! The fireplaces, the ceilings, everything, so grand and beautiful!

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  2. I've been meaning to visit Strawberry Hill House for ages, but I didn't have a clue how grand and beautiful it is inside! Seriously, some of those decorative features look like they're made out of origami - just stunning.


    Thanks for the London inspiration, Emma!

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  3. Really wished I had visited here when I lived in Richmond *facepalm*

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  4. Oh wow, I'd never actually heard of Strawberry Hill house! I love the Gothic tradition, some of my favourite books :)

    Lots of love,
    Angie

    SilverSpoon London

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  5. I think I could handle that library.... :) xx

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  6. So glad you liked it! Would you believe it... this was the first house I visited upon moving to London. One, just one secret I managed to uncover before you Miss Emma!! ;) xx

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  7. It looks like it was worth the wait to see this place! Beautiful interiors. I love an ornate ceiling!

    Polly xx
    Follow Your Sunshine

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  8. It was shockingly beautiful - what a place to live!

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  9. You've discovered SO much before me :) You're part of the reason I wanted to go - the realisation that it lived up to it's reputation!! I just couldn't wrestle control of the opening times LOL!

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  10. My friend never even knew it existed, and she's lived there for 7 years...!

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  11. Isn't it luscious!? Well worth a stroll - but you might want to check if you need to book a time in when you go - we went on Mother's Day. They do have a lovely café to wait in though :)

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  12. Just breathtaking isn't it!? I wanna live there...

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  13. Wowza, what an incredible building! I love those gold curlicues on the ceiling.

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  14. Never knew this was there, now I have to go. Damn this blogging business for making my life jam packed and interesting! Also, totally love that library, but I want more. I won't rest until I have the total Bedknobs and Broomsticks library experience!

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  15. That's a strange looking two horned horse like thing...


    It's a hard life trying to remember all the things I fancy doing haha

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  16. 'You must go.' Okay, I will! No really, your post and the photos have convinced me to add this to my special Long London Bucket List (because, yes, it's long). When I go there I've a good excuse to visit Richmond again, so how would you say that in English? Hitting two birds with one stone? That.

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  17. The detailing along the ceilings (especially in the hallway) are INCREDIBLE!
    I wish more places did stained glass nowadays though.
    But could you imagine the pictures on them?
    It would probably be doge dressed up as a bishop or something with the words "much wow" "very fancy" surrounding him xo

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