Although I did find a completely unrelated song called Strawberry Hill by Bronze Radio Return that is worth checking out, this post doesn’t have a song behind it. But I saw so many amazing pictures of this home during architecture school, I couldn’t leave it out of my travel plans.
When I say tucked away in Twickenham, I mean it. I got off the bus and proceeded to get lost in a neighborhood that looked like this. I know, my life is just horrible.
Horace Walpole meant his house to be a theatrical experience, and when I saw a stark white turret poking up over a plain brown garden wall, I knew I was in for a treat.
The kindly people behind the front desk gave me a little guide book written by Walpole himself, and then set me loose on a self-guided tour. And if you’re thinking What kind of Grade-A narcissist writes a guide to his own house? , Walpole immediately heads you off.
It will look, I fear, a little like arrogance in a private man to give a printed description of his villa and collection, in which almost everything is diminutive. It is not, however, intended for public sale, and originally was meant only to assist those who should visit the place…But I do not mean to defend by argument a small capricious house. It was built to place my own taste, and in sole degree to realize my own vision. -Horace Walpole, Preface to A Description of the Villa
I hope one day to be as rich and eccentric.
The stark white exterior gives very little indication of the atmospheric, moody rooms inside. Maybe the white is a kind of palette cleanser? There’s so much going on inside, it’s almost necessary.
A big thing in Gothic architecture was using light and dark to direct the eye. In the case of Gothic cathedrals, you were meant to look upward at the light from the windows because, you know, that’s where Heaven is. Strawberry Hill is the same, except you get to bask in human ego. You enter a dark foyer with a low ceiling, but you immediately look up because of the light pouring in between the staircases from the skylight.
The rooms in the interior are also decidedly either dark or light, giving each room its own personality. Highlights from my favorite rooms below:
The Blue Bed Chamber
Can this be my room?
This room is obviously the show-shopper. Can you believe the ceiling is papier-mache?!
I rounded out my visit with some cucumber sandwiches and an afternoon tea from the cafe on site. My plate also came with a biscuit and some shortbread. As far as I’m concerned, it could all have been shortbread (it was amazing!), but it was still a perfectly British ending to the day.
I’m going to leave you with another gem from Walpole’s guide to Strawberry Hill:
“I begin to be ashamed of my own magnificence.” -Horace Walpole
Me too, Horace. Me too.