Imagine you’re 32, the year is 1749, and you don’t have any kids – so what do you blow your money on? A plot of land overlooking the Thames to create an avant-garde Gothic Revival-inspired mansion to host your friends, store your book collection and impress other people of course! That’s what Horace Walpole (writer, antiquarian and son of Britain’s first Prime Minister) did. And we’re lucky enough to be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
And what a treat it is! Every corner, from the entrance hall to the china room and the chapel is filled with intricate details. We’re talking a breakfast room with a tented Turkish boudoir velvet ceiling, a gallery with golden papier mâché Rococo ceilings and a library with pinnacled pillar bookcases. Nothing about this place is basic.
Upon Walepole’s death, the house was passed to his cousin’s unmarried daughter and then to the Waldegraves and the contents auctioned. Lady Waldegrave did the place up and added a wing – you can spot her in a grand painting showing off her social circle.
With the help of his letters, paintings and a detailed document called ‘A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole’ the place was restored, and they were able to replicate a lot of the furniture and paintings, plus even the bookcases are filled with the same books that were collected by Walpole.
It would have taken your coach two hours, but nowadays it’s a mere 30 minute train ride to Strawberry Hill Station and from there a 10 minute walk.