Explore: London's Stunning Strawberry Hill House

24 Sep 13

Explore: London's Stunning Strawberry Hill House

24 Sep 13

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What do Strawberry Hill House and the word ‘serendipity’ have in common?

Both were created by Sir Horace Walpole.

Today is Horace Walpole’s 292th birthday, and I can think of no better way to celebrate it than to sally forth into the September sun to visit Strawberry Hill House. Designed by Walpole himself, this impressive building took 27 years to complete and inspired what became known as the ‘Strawberry Hill Gothic’ style of architecture.

Walpole was as curious a character as his castle: an active member of the political establishment, he is famous as a letter writer as well as for his bon mots. He is also the author of several books, including the famous Castle of Otranto, which gave birth to the gothic genre, and more serendipitously, the parodies thereof – I am thinking of Crotchet Castle and Headlong Hall here, both worth a read if this fine weather declines – as well as being a great admirer of Marie Antoinette, whom he described as ‘an aerial being, all brightness and grace’.

The original name of the house was ‘Chopped Straw Hall’, but Walpole found this appellation abhorrent, so renamed it. The whole area around is now known as Strawberry Hill. Other than being fascinating from an architectural point of view, Strawberry Hill House boasts beautiful gardens, whose design was overseen by Walpole (he had fairly strong ideas about gardening as evidenced in his essay ‘On Modern Gardening’), and which contain amongst other things a Chinese Pagoda and a ‘Gothic ruin’.

Strawberry Hill House is the architectural representation of that particularly British character trait, eccentricity, and is well worth visiting. Its absence from the tourist’s agenda is a conspicuous one, and unmerited: go and see it, and make a serendipitous discovery…

How to get there

The Address: Strawberry Hill, 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, TW1 4ST

It is easily accessible by train, underground and bus, as well as by car or bicycle. Click here for reviews of the house on TripAdvisor.


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