On a very hot Monday 15th July a group of members and guests went to Strawberry Hill. Horace Walpole created the house and garden in the 18th century. It is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture. It also inspired the first gothic novel The Castle of Otranto (written by Walpole and still in print.)
Both house and garden have had to be extensively restored over the past few years and the work is still going on. Walpole kept meticulous records so the restoration has had prime sources to ensure that the house and garden are being restored to its former glory.
The house was built to display Walpole’s great collections and also to entertain his guests. There is a unique collection of renaissance glass, which gives the gloomy castle-like house a magical quality.
One of the highlights was the magnificent gallery, the main room for entertaining, which has now been restored to the room that Walpole and his friends knew. The papier-mâché ceiling has been repaired, cleaned and re-gilded. It looked stunning.
Another highlight was the room called the Tribune. It was built to house Walpole’s most valuable treasures. His priceless collection of miniatures was housed in a very fine rosewood cabinet. (Now in the Victoria and Albert Museum) and the walls and niches were crammed with pictures, statues, and expensive objets d’art.
Walpole never married and his house and collection went to a nephew and unfortunately his collection was sold off in later years to settle gaming debts. While the whereabouts of much of the collection is known it will be impossible to ever reunite them with the house. So it was important to have a guide explain what was there, where they were placed and how the house was used. The group was split into three groups and each had a very knowledgeable guide. They were ‘Friends of Strawberry Hill’.
Our thanks go to Sheila Stewart for organizing the trip – her last one for us as she has handed over the reins of visit secretary after several years in post.