On Sunday Zoe and I headed off on adventures for my Birthday. Instead of buying me a present to unwrap Zoe had given me the gift of visiting a historic house Strawberry Hill (with bonus sculptures – more of them later) and lunch.
The house was built back in the 18th Century by Horace Walpole as a home and place to display his collection of ‘interesting things’ (man after my own heart). It boasts some truly magnificent architecture and similarly extravagant interior design. Having met Zoe at the station we hopped on a train to Twickenham and arrived to get the 1.40pm time slot for a look round the house, I couldn’t wait (having already fallen very much in love with the fairytale facade exterior) to see what lay within the walls.
By the front gate
As you can see we were both very excited to be there! The house offers timed slots although once you get in you are left with the printed guide to make your own way around (and talk to the lovely and very knowledgeable volunteers as much or as little as you like). The first room we entered into was the hall with mock (painted) carved stone.
And a modern copy of the original painted lantern.
There was also 2 (the first of many) bright and beautiful glass windows flanking the door
From the entryway we made our way into the Great Parlour which was where we found these charming ladies
They were done by Laura Ford who creates sculptures from bronze and fabric and currently has a temporary exhibition at the house. These poodles were based on a portrait that she found of three ladies are were made especially for this exhibition (I must say they were very good, she captured the expressions exactly, and I love the rouge).
The drawing room also housed a very opulent gothic mirror
and these fabulous chairs (which would look great in our dining room, I’m just saying :-))
Having savoured the delights of the ground floor we made our way up the stairs to the 1st floor (past this rather fetching bannister goat)
To the first floor breakfast room, this room was still in the process of being restored (eventually one wall will be done in the style of each of its main owners). As it was it was currently housing a embroidered bedspread which is being made especially by the house by a local sewing group, ready to be put onto the bed in the next room (Mr Walpole’s bedchamber no less!).
Fabulous to know the legacy of craftsmanship in the house is continuing! The next room the green closet was where Horace used to read and reply to his correspondence, as you can see Zoe felt right at home!
And wasn’t put off at all by this donkey ‘helper’ leaning on the desk.
The bedroom next door was painted a Prussian blue and had one of the nicest fireplaces in the whole house (and that’s saying something as all the rooms had a fireplace).
Unfortunately the blue room featured some pretty scary sculptures (well I didn’t like them) so after admiring the beautiful fireplace I hopped next door and rubbishly missed the peacock painted glass (I was reading the guidebook on the way home when I realised). After a quick look round the red room/great North Bedchamber
we were then directed up to the next level past this rather large & strange painting on the stairs.
And the yet more fantastic glass windows (not finished yet – but the pieces that were there and the shape of the window was stunning).
to the library
As well as having some really beautiful glass
it also had some more sculptures, this time of wounded soldiers on the floor
Next door was Mr Walpole’s bedchamber which had just been redone with some replica wallpaper and featured yet another beautiful fireplace.
The room next to this The Plaid bedchamber– had the most unusual windows of the whole house (to make the most of the view)
The room also contained a display about the printing press that was at Strawberry Hill
And this chap demonstrating how to set type, he looked like he could do with a hand so…
Along the corridor it all went a bit blue
In the small but perfectly formed star chamber before moving through to the back of the house to the Holbein chamber (where you guessed it the Holbein paintings were hung) & it was time for some more sculpture:
From the purple room we moved to the opulent red ballroom/gallery
Perfect for parties of the very highest calibre! My favourite room however was just off this a small antechamber The Tribune which was originally built to house the most precious treasures (with a beautiful but functional door to keep unwelcome/uninvited guests out!)
With the most beautiful vaulted ceiling spanning out from a central painted star
And as is the prerequisite for favourite rooms of mine it also contained oodles of painted and stained glass:
The last couple of rooms on the tour were a large circular room/the round room at the end of the gallery where the guests would have gathered (complete with wrap around fireplace).
and semi circle of glass panels
And like all really lovely rooms even the small details were exquisite.
The final room on the tour was a small antechamber – The Beauclerc closet which was built to hold some paintings done by Lady Diana Beauclerc to accompany some of Mr Walpoles writing The Mysterious Mother. The room was small but perfectly formed and papered in the most delicate soft blue damash which I loved.
That concluded our tour of the house and so we headed downstairs to the excellent café for nourishment and libation of the er liquid type. After lunch it was time to see what lurked in the grounds…
A dog (spaniel?)
And quite a few large cats who were definitely my favourite sculptures (there were apparently two white spooky little girls in the garden too but I’m pretty glad we didn’t find them!).
Tired but very happy we headed back to the train and Oxford. As you can see by the pictures the restoration of Strawberry Hill is still very much on-going but I would urge you to visit as already its worth the very reasonable entry fee (you get a lot of house/garden for your money & only about a third of the rooms are open). There is also fundraising afoot for 2017 which will be the 300 anniversary of Horace Walpoles birth. If you want to find out more about the fundraising that’s here and more information about the house is here.