Strawberry Hill House is a confection of Victoriana in all its ridiculous sumptuousness.
Horace Walpole, author and son of Robert Walpole Britain’s longest-serving Prime Minister, designed and built the place as his residence.
It is notable for its architecture and loving restoration, but they have some way to go before it is restored to a level that can fully evoke its past glory. The rooms are bare of furniture, paintings or hangings and much is left to the imagination, but they have spent vast sums on a lurid purple paint with which they have enthusiastically slathered the bedroom walls. Apparently this is true to the original exotic taste of Mr Walpole.
That said, the architectural features are really something and have been returned to their original splendour, with gilded ceilings and doorways, and delicately carved wooden trellises and stairways in abundance.
Numerous fantastically geeky voluntary tour guides make valiant attempts to answer every question and enthusiastically monitor every visitor, never allowing anyone to be left alone in a room, just in case they might be tempted to steal a fireplace.
Of particular note is the fine stained glass. Horace Walpole painstakingly collected hundreds of pieces of ‘painted’ glass during his tours abroad which were then amalgamated into delightful collages for his castle windows. There are historical portraits of English kings, skilled craftsmen, botany, birds and animals, landscapes and heraldic devices.
Horace was obviously a snob. He had included a sliding panel in the door of The Plaid Bedchamber and an iron-barred gate to The Tribune Room through which lesser guests could view his treasures without sullying his pristine house.
He also seems to have been something of a pervert, judging from the placement of an enormous double bed in the middle of one of his reception rooms…
Eccentricities aside, Horace designed and built a splendid property that captures the essence of Gothic Revival beautifully. The Trust that funds it has done a great job in restoring the framework given that it was entirely derelict, but I would wait until they have reacquired the furnishings and paintings before making the trip to Twickenham.