In Pictures: Horace Walpole's 18th century Gothic Strawberry Hill castle set to reopen

By Culture24 Staff | 23 September 2010
A photo of stained glass windows
Restored stained glass in the Great Parlour at Strawberry Hill© Richard Holttum
The Strawberry Hill Trust today offered the first glimpses inside Strawberry Hill, the imperious castle designed as a Gothic fantasy by Horace Walpole between 1747 and 1792, which will reopen on October 2 2010 following a £9 million, two-year project to restore the original look of the Twickenham house.

A photo of a woman working on an intricate window detail
Lisa Ferguson, of Angel Interiors, gilding the networking in the Gallery at Strawberry Hill© Kilian O'Sullivan
Having fallen into "extreme disrepair", Strawberry Hill was placed on English Heritage’s At Risk Register in 1991. When the World Monuments Fund listed it as one of the world’s 100 most endangered heritage sites in 2004, it sparked a campaign to save the house met by a £4.9 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant and major contributions from English Heritage, The Architectural Heritage Fund and numerous trusts, societies and individuals across the UK.

A photo of stained glass and wall paintings in a historic house
The ceiling of the library and restored stained glass© Richard Holttum
A historian, writer and collector who was also the son of Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Horace set a fashion for gothic architecture with Strawberry Hill which influenced the build of the Houses of Parliament and architecture throughout the world. Michael Snodin, the Chairman of the Trust, calls the house "a physical manifestation of his cultural legacy".

A photo of a red wall with patterned gold details inside a historic house
The Gallery© Richard Holttum
There are 25 showrooms on two floors, with 20 fully restored. A "huge" collection of painted renaissance glass, rich crimson walls, a Round Room inspired by a tomb, cloisters and a Great Chamber featuring in a breathtaking set of rooms and chambers.

An image of a painting of a bygone member of the nobility
John Giles Eccardt's Portrait of Horace Walpole (1754) has a new home at Strawberry Hill© Private collection
The library and staircases have been rebuilt, and the star-ceilinged Tribune, which Walpole based on the treasure room of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, has been restored in an effort which required the reparation of holes made by invading squirrels.

A photo of a rooftop
The newly restored pinnacles and chimneypots© Richard Holttum
Visitors will encounter the "wedding cake" look of Strawberry Hill at the entrance. Other extensively-researched additions come in an Education Centre for practical work, a room in the base of the Round Tower for seminars and discussions and a museum telling the story of the people who have lived in the house.

A highly evocative audio guide by dramatists Holy Mountain also aims to immerse the public in 18th century life. Anna Chalcraft, Chair of the Steering Committee which set up The Friends of Strawberry Hill, says it it "as though the house has awoken from a long and troubled sleep."

Open 12pm-4.30pm Wednesday-Saturday between October 2 and December 22 2010. Then reopens April 2 – October 30 2011. Admission £8/£7 (includes audio guide and booklet). Pre-booking essential – visit www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk
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