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Background

Strawberry Hill, in Twickenham near the banks of the River Thames in London, is Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture. It was designed and created as a Gothic fantasy between 1747 and 1792 by Horace Walpole, historian, writer, collector and son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole.

Strawberry Hill Exterior in the final stages of restoration in 2010

How we helped

Having fallen into a state of extreme disrepair, the house had been on English Heritage’s At Risk Register since 1991. Furthermore, it was added to the World Monuments Fund Watch in 2004, a move which proved a catalyst in starting a campaign for its repair. The restoration programme was made possible by a £4.9m grant from the UK’s Heritage Lottery Fund and over £1.5m from World Monuments Fund, including a $1.1m donation from the Robert W. Wilson Challenge Fund to Conserve Our Heritage, as well as numerous charitable trusts, local societies and individual patrons.

With so much rich history and multi-layered significance, considerable research and investigation had to be carried out in the building. Environmental monitoring, glass surveys, analysis of the papier mâché, stone, stucco and wallpaper layers and extensive archival research are just a few aspects that were explored. Fortunately Strawberry Hill is one of the most comprehensively documented houses in the country.

The information amassed from all these investigations informed the creation of an extensive Conservation Management Plan. It gave great insight into the development of the house, and reinforced the notion of its being constructed exactly to Walpole’s grand plan.

Watercolour of the Round Drawing Room at Strawberry Hill

Why it matters

My buildings are paper, like my writings, and both will blow away in ten years after I am dead

Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole died in 1790 yet remarkably Strawberry Hill is still standing over two hundred years later. His house is not just full of architectural and design innovations, but steeped in a strange atmosphere of ‘gloomth’, a deliberate invocation of the medieval Walpole loved. Today one has no trouble imagining how Walpole came to be inspired to write ‘The Castle of Otranto’ the first Gothic Horror novel and forerunner of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley and Daphne du Maurier.

On Thursday 23 September 2010 The Strawberry Hill Trust announced that their £9 million, two-year long restoration of Horace Walpole’s magnificent Gothic castle was completed. The villa re-opened to the public in October 2010.

There are 25 show rooms on the ground and first floors, 20 of which will have been fully restored to take the house back to the 1790s when Walpole had completed his creation. Of particular note is the conservation of the huge collection of painted renaissance glass for which Strawberry Hill is famed.