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Horace Walpoles' Villa and Grounds - Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham




Strawberry Hill a Grade I Listed building, in Twickenham near the banks of the River Thames in London, is Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture and is set to become a major tourist and heritage attraction for London and the UK.  It was designed and created as a Gothic fantasy between 1747 and 1792 by Horace Walpole, historian, writer and collector and son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. 
Having fallen into a state of extreme disrepair, the house had been on English Heritage’s At Risk Register since 1991.  Furthermore, it was listed by World Monuments Fund as one of the world’s 100 most endangered heritage sites in 2004, a move which proved a catalyst in starting a campaign for its repair.  The restoration programme has been part funded by a £4.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Partnership funding includes donations by English Heritage, World Monuments Fund Britain, The Architectural Heritage Fund, as well as numerous charitable trusts, local societies and individual patrons.
Michael Snodin, Chairman of the Strawberry Hill Trust which has orchestrated the restoration, says “With Strawberry Hill Horace Walpole set a fashion for Gothic architecture which led to buildings such as the Houses of Parliament and this trend then spread throughout the world”.
Continues Snodin, “Strawberry Hill is an important part of Britain’s architectural history because it is a physical manifestation of Horace Walpole’s cultural legacy, which was to pioneer an imaginative self-expression in building, collecting and decorating which still inspires us today”.
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “Back in the 1780s, Horace Walpole created a little bit of heritage magic in Twickenham.  Fast forward several centuries and Strawberry Hill is once more resplendent in its Gothic glory and ready to throw its doors open again to visitors.  The Heritage Lottery Fund’s support has helped safeguard the villa’s future, ensuring people of all ages will enjoy its wonderful architecture as well as learn about its central role in our country’s fascinating political history”.
Dr Jonathan Foyle, Chief Executive of World Monuments Fund, Britain adds: “A decade ago, Strawberry Hill was clearly a building in need of support.  World Monuments Fund strongly advocated for this project and was pleased to offer a considerable financial contribution to the restoration of the house. These investments have now been fully realised by skilful management and talented craftspeople.  This is a successful project we are proud to have sponsored.”
Horace Walpole created Strawberry Hill as his summer villa in partnership with friends and architects including the celebrated Robert Adam.    It represented a complete contrast to the fashion of the time which was based on classical symmetry.  Walpole favoured instead irregularity and lack of symmetry in order to convey mystery, surprise and a sense of the theatrical. Strawberry Hill was a popular tourist attraction in its time and visitors to the newly restored castle will enjoy a dramatic Gothic experience just as in Walpole’s day.
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.  In addition to extensive repairs to the roof, much work has been done to repair and conserve the fabric of the building employing the same structural design as the original.  Of particular note is the conservation of the huge collection of renaissance glass for which Strawberry Hill is famed.
As they approach Strawberry Hill visitors will be met by the remarkable Gothic exterior, restored to its original ‘wedding cake’ appearance, lime washed in white.  The castellated parapets and 3-metre high pinnacles create a dramatic and spiky silhouette. Inside, Walpole’s design concept created an atmosphere of ‘gloomth’ in the first rooms, gradually revealing a greater use of colour as one proceeded.  Therefore, on entering at the ground floor, today’s visitors will witness Walpole’s same atmospheric use of stony grey, castle-like hues as they ascend the staircase lit by a single hanging lantern.

 

Detail

Client: The Strawberry Hill Trust
Project Value: £8.2 million (Construction Cost)
Project Team: Inskip and Jenkins Architects (Historic Buildings Architects)
Mann Williams (Structural Engineers)
Martin Thomas Associates (Building Services Engineers)
PCM Confluence (CDM Co-ordinators)
E Bowman & Sons (Main Contractor)
Project Category(s): Historic Buildings
Services Offered: Contract Admin, Building Services / Cost Management, Quantity Surveying, Project Management
Completion: Main Restoration Complete - September 2010

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