Grants Will Help Save Horace Walpole's Gothic Strawberry Hill House

By Narelle Doe | 30 January 2008
A picture of the interior of a highly decorative library with gothic arches over the bookcases.

The Library. Courtesy Friends of Strawberry Hill

A Gothic 18th century mansion, which once belonged to author Horace Walpole, will be saved from disrepair in 2008 with a £100,000 grant from English Heritage.

Grade I-listed Strawberry Hill House, in Kingston Upon Thames, London, needs a vital overhaul with major repairs to the roof, parapets and drainage. Aircraft vibrations have damaged the stained glass windows that need to be restored.

The grant is the first stage of an £8million restoration project. The building has been on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register since 1996 and in 2004 was included on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.

“We are delighted to be able to contribute financially to this project," said Tim Jones of English Heritage’s London Regional team. "If the essential repair of the roof and rainwater systems is not completed soon, the house could be exposed to serious damage."

"Ultimately, this money will leave an important part of our heritage in a good state of repair for future generations to enjoy."

A picture of the interior of a highly decorative chamber with arches.

The Holbein Chamber. Courtesy Friends of Strawberry Hill

Restoration work has uncovered new and exciting discoveries. When experts removed more recent decoration they found original wallpaper from 250 years ago.

Strawberry Hill is Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture and interior decoration. Dating from 1698, the original house was transformed into a ‘Little Gothic Castle’ in 1747 when it was bought by Horace Walpole, writer and son of Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

The Library has a gothic arch in front of every bookcase, based on the design of a side door in Old St Paul’s, destroyed in the Great Fire of London, and most of the fireplaces are copies of tombs in the great cathedrals of Europe. The Long Gallery’s fan-vaulted ceiling is copied from the ceiling in the Henry VII chapel in Westminster Abbey.

When Walpole died, his niece relinquished the house to the Waldegrave family and by 1835 the house stood empty with the contents auctioned off. In 1925 the estate was bought by the Catholic Education Council and became the St Mary’s Teacher Training College. The building was damaged in the Second World War.

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