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Strawberry Hill House – Visit Horace Walpole’s Little Gothic Castle (2024)!

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Strawberry Hill House is a truly unique residence in West London that looks like something from a Gothic novel with its gleaming white walls and battlements. 

It was created by the writer, or ‘man of letters’, Horace Walpole and is seen as the birthplace of Gothic Revival Architecture. 

Every room in this extravagant house is unique and was inspired by medieval history and adventures from Walpole’s Grand Tour of Europe. 

Strawberry Hill House has been on my bucket list for years as it looks like it has been plucked out of the pages of a dark fairytale. 

I was most excited to visit the fabulous Gothic library and I’m pleased to say it far exceeded my already sky-high expectations.

Here is a complete guide for visiting Horace Walpole’s ‘Little Gothic Castle’ in Twickenham with the history, highlights and how to get there.

Strawberry Hill House Horace Walpole's Little Gothic Castle

Strawberry Hill House History 

Horace Walpole was born in 1717 and was the third son of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister.

Horace is known for writing the world’s first Gothic novel, ‘The Castle of Otranto’ and he was a famous name in 18th-century society.

His passion for literature, art and architecture came from his Grand Tour of Europe and he felt compelled to purchase land on ‘Chopp’d Straw Hall’ in 1747 in fashionable Twickenham. 

Walpole then started his project of a summer residence he called his ‘Little Gothic Castle’ on the banks of the River Thames with battlements, pinnacles and a round tower.

Horace Walpole's Little Gothic Castle
Horace Walpole’s Little Gothic Castle

His love for medieval history and his adventures on his Grand Tour inspired much of the Gothic Revival interiors and the designs were pioneers for the time. 

It piqued local interest and became a popular tourist attraction with guided tours conducted daily by his housekeeper. 

Walpole published a strict set of rules on the number of tours allowed per day, when they could take place and that children were strictly prohibited. 

As much as Horace loved to entertain ambassadors, royalty and the aristocracy he got a bit fed up with the middle classes especially when sickness spread in the city.

Strawberry Hill House Library
The Gothic Library – my favourite room!

Great 1842 Family Sale 

After Horace Walpole died in 1797, he had no heirs so he left the house to his cousin’s daughter Anne Seymour Damer. Anne was a renowned sculptor of her time. 

It then passed to Elizabeth Waldegrave who made an expansion and then to her grandson John Waldegrave.

Unfortunately, John died very young and so he left the house to his brother George Walgrave who was a bit of a scoundrel.

George was sent to prison for riotous behaviour and he let the house fall to ruin out of spite.

He later arranged the ‘Great 1842 Sale’ and sold off most of Horace Walpole’s precious collection he’d amassed during his lifetime in just over a week.

Many of Walpole’s possessions were then scattered to various collectors and the house was abandoned. 

Strawberry Hill House was then taken over by St Mary’s University in Twickenham in 1923.

Strawberry Hill House Oval Chamber

The Restoration

Since 2004, Walpole’s Little Gothic Castle has been lovingly restored to its original design. The team based their revival on extensive research using diary entries, sketches and original plans. 

It’s now protected by Strawberry Hill Trust. They have worked incredibly hard to open the manor to the wider public. 

It’s had millions of pounds worth of funding to make the project a success as well as countless historic restoration experts working on the house.

As many of Horace Walpole’s items were sold off, some of the portraits and artefacts inside the house are donations and/or loaned from art galleries and the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University. 

Horace Walpole’s legacy was starting the Gothic Revival Architecture movement of the 18th and 19th centuries.

His style is so famous it’s now coined ‘Strawberry Hill Gothic’ and has inspired many great houses since its creation.

Blue Bedchamber Strawberry Hill House
Blue Bedchamber

Can you go inside Strawberry Hill House?

Yes, ever since the trust has restored this fabulous property, visitors are allowed to head inside and explore Horace Walpole’s ‘little Gothic castle’.

You can take a self-guided tour of the house for a small fee and also visit the wonderful planned gardens and café.

It’s a bit of a London hidden gem that is well worth visiting if you find yourself in Richmond-upon-Thames. 

The architecture here is outstanding and like nothing I’ve ever seen before on my travels. Every time I walked into a room at the house, I fell in love with this place a little bit more.

Strawberry Hill House Library
Strawberry Hill House Library

Things to do at Strawberry Hill House

There are so many gorgeous aesthetic details to this house. On the surface, it looks grandeur, ostentatious and vibrant.

But, it’s the wild stories and fabulous history of this fascinating Gothic castle that are the real treasures. If only walls could talk!

On your visit to each room, you’ll embark on a journey of discovery uncovering the mysteries and secrets of the eccentric visionary Horace Walpole. 

Make sure to ask the friendly volunteers any questions you have as they know about nearly every item in the house and have some amazing stories to tell you.

Here are all the things to do at the magical Strawberry Hill House; 

Holbein Chamber Strawberry Hill House
Holbein Chamber

Explore Horace Walpole’s Gothic mansion

As soon as you step inside, you’ll find yourself in the stunning entry hall that leads you into the Great Parlour.

Painted in a stunning powder blue, this large room has portraits of Horace Walpole’s nieces and other family members. 

If you look at the stained glass windows that overlook the gardens, you can see some wonderful etchings in the glass panels. 

These can be found throughout the house and depict a mix of stories from great battles to famous romances. 

Before you head upstairs, don’t forget to look at the Gold Fish Bowl in the main hall, it’s made of blue chinaware and supposedly is where Horace’s poor cat drowned.

This caused his friend to write ‘Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes (1747)’.

But, don’t worry, as Horace was known to make up stories about the items in his collection this is most likely a fabrication (I hope, the poor thing)!

The Great Parlour Strawberry Hill House
The Great Parlour

Hall, Staircase & Armoury 

The staircase that leads you to the upper rooms is breathtaking with the floral skylights overhead that light the space and the colourful hanging lantern. 

The patterns on the Trompe L’oeill wallpaper look like they are carved but it’s an illusion of stucco work. It was inspired by Prince Arthur’s tomb in Worcester Cathedral. 

If you head to the landing, you’ll find the Armoury with three Gothic arches. In here, there are some wonderful pieces like the family Trophy of Arms.

You’ll also see a partial suit of armour that was supposedly owned by King Francis I of France.

Look out for a copy of the medieval portrait of King Henry VII with St George Slaying the Dragon. The original is located in Hampton Court Palace.

Although the Armoury is a small space, I thought it gave a fascinating insight into Horace’s passion for medieval history.

Strawberry Hill House armoury
The Armoury with heraldic antelopes

Make sure to check out the antelopes on the staircase too. These are carved from limewood but made to look like stone. 

They don’t look very realistic as they are meant to be medieval interpretations and mirror the heraldic symbols for the Earls of Orford.

Sir Robert Walpole, Horace’s father, was granted these symbols when he was the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Strawberry Hill House staircase
Staircase

Strawberry Hill Library 

My favourite room of the entire house has to be the library which is the most Gothic room. It’s considered by many to be the first Gothic library in Britain. 

Much of ‘The Castle of Ontario’ was inspired by this house so it makes sense that Horace Walpole was a great lover of letters, reading and books.

The library shelves have ornate archways to house the books and the top of the shelves open like a cupboard so you can reach the books at the top!

If you look up at the ornate painted ceiling you’ll find mythical creatures, a Saracen’s head which is on the Walpole coat of arms and heraldic emblems.

Strawberry Hill House Library
Strawberry Hill House Library Ceiling

It was designed by both Horace Walpole and John Chute taking influence from his love of medieval history and great buildings like St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral. 

Many of Horace Walpole’s original book collection was sold off in the great family sale of 1842 so much of this library was donated from the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University.

I could have spent an age admiring all the books here and the enchanting details you could find around the library.

All the books have a specific place as they are organised in the 17th-century system of a letter for the library section, a number for the bookshelf in question and then the position of the book on the shelf. 

According to the volunteers, Horace would get very angry if the books were moved out of their original places.

Strawberry Hill House Gothic Library
I was in love with this Gothic Library

Crimson and Gold Gallery 

The most impressive room of the house has to be The Gallery which was created to hang portraits and for Horace to show off to his guests whilst entertaining them.

The design was inspired by Elizabethan and Jacobean long galleries. But, unlike the dark wood galleries of the era, Walpole’s gallery was decorated in a show-stopping crimson damask and gold with mirrors.

The Gallery Strawberry Hill House
The Gallery

The fan ceiling is made of papier-mâché and painted in fine detail with gold. It was inspired by Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster Abbey.

After The Great Sale, many of Horace Walpole’s original portraits were sold off save the Portrait of Catherine Medici and her Children. One of the most powerful queens in French history.

Many of the paintings we see today are loaned from Dulwich Picture Gallery and some are even facsimiles of historic portraits with resin frames. But, you could never tell! 

The Gallery StrawberrY hill House

The Tribune 

After you’ve been to The Gallery, you must visit the breathtaking Tribune that’s attached to it.

This room was another one of my favourites as the the shape and details were utterly breathtaking. It almost felt like a secret chamber. 

It was created as a ‘little chapel’ in 1761 and was named after ‘the Tribuna’ in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence containing the Medici family’s cabinet of treasures. 

You’ll see the walls painted in gold detail and if you look up to the top of the arched ceiling, there is a star-shaped skylight. 

Around the room, you’ll find copy miniatures of statues in niches such as the famous Venus de Medici and small paintings of Dutch and Flemish life. 

The Tribune Strawberry Hill House
The Tribune

Holbein Chamber 

Another one of my favourite rooms in the house is the Holbein Chamber which was painted in a fabulous purple with a stucco ceiling. 

This was a homage to Horace Walpole’s obsession with King Henry VIII and Tudor history, architecture and art. Something that we both have in common!

The room has a set of ‘traced’ copies of Hans Holbein’s drawings of Henry VIII’s court by George Vertue. 

These were originally in Kensington Palace, then they moved to Sudeley Castle, the famous home of Katherine Parr.

So, what we see today here are facsimile copies of those original copies!

The Holbein Chamber Strawberry Hill House
The Holbein Chamber

If you ask a staff member, they will hand you an index and map to identify each sketch. You’ll see famous figures like Thomas Cromwell and Jane Seymour. 

Also, you may see some rare images of Tudor courtiers like Katherine Willoughby, an important heiress and the Duchess of Suffolk.

The sketches are joined by a fabulous portrait gallery of Tudor monarchs like Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Mary I of England. 

Although not in Henry Walpole’s original collection – I’m sure he would have loved them!

Strawberry Hill House Holbein Chamber
The Holbein Chamber

Other bedrooms and features

There are so many details in this house you could spend all day finding something new. Here are some other notable features to look out for;

Round Room – off The Gallery, you’ll find the red round room with a colourful stained glass window. In the middle were some gorgeous coconut goblets on display owned by Walpole. 

Red Bedchamber – The Red Bedchamber or ‘Great North Chamber’ has flocked red wallpaper. It wasn’t actually used as a bedroom but for a display.

Round Room Strawberry Hill house
Round Room

Green Chamber – This is such a unique room with a hanging velvet canopy on the ceiling. It’s so historically significant that it’s protected by English Heritage. It has an antechamber called the ‘Green Closet’ with miniature portraits and this is where Horace used to write. 

Green Cabinet Horace Walpole's Writing Desk
The Green Closet and Horace Walpole’s writing desk
Green Chamber
Green Chamber

Blue Chamber – This stunning bed chamber in cobalt blue was Horace Walpole’s bedroom and features a copy of Robert Walpole’s bed that Horace inherited. I loved the bedding and the heraldic emblem on the headboard that was added during the recent restoration. 

Blue Chamber Strawberry Hill House

Printing Press – On the very upper floor, there is a printing press room. Horace Walpole built a Printing House on the grounds which he called “the Offinia Arbuteana”. This is where he printed a guidebook for visitors and other pamphlets.

Strawberry Hill Printing Press

The Gardens 

The gardens are free to visit and are well worth exploring after your tour inside Strawberry Hill House.

You can visit the open field with panoramic views of the Gothic castle in the distance and it makes a great photo opportunity.

Strawberry Hill House London
Horace Walpole’s Little Gothic Castle

They also have a fabulous Shell Seat that you can pose with which I loved. It’s so unique and I’ve never seen anything like this on my travels.

It is a recreation of Horace Walpole’s original design and he got the inspiration from Paris and the ‘shell mania’ on his Grand Tour of Europe. 

I also found out it was part of his ‘sweet walk’. This is something that the house is trying to restore in the gardens – so watch this space!

StrawberrY Hill House Shell Seat
The Shell Seat

There is a small walking route you can take through the trees and orchard grove for now and it’s nice to take a spin if it’s a sunny day. 

The grounds are also part of St Mary’s University in Twickenham so you’ll see lots of buildings that make up their campus.

You can see Lady Waldegrave’s extension of the house from the outside but, unfortunately, you can’t go inside any of the academic wings. 

Lady Waldegrave's extension of the house
Lady Waldegrave’s extension of the house is now part of the university

Don’t forget to say hello to their resident heron Horace who is the real king of this castle. He can often be seen sitting by the café doors waiting for food. 

He knows how to pose and I thought Horace looked very regal on the steps outside between the two gold statues. 

Horace the Heron
Horace the Heron

The Garden Café by Roots & Berries

In the old cloister of the house, you’ll find the delightful Garden Café by Roots & Berries. It’s owned by the nicest couple. 

They had indoor and outdoor seating and it’s such a lovely place to have a drink or some brunch.

I treated myself to a Cawston Press Elderflower lemonade and one of their beef brisket toasties with an olive and rocket salad on the side. I also indulged in a slice of raspberry lemon drizzle cake and it was all delicious. 

I absolutely loved some of the Horace Walpole quotes that they had on the walls with the hanging plants. A particular favourite of mine was “I begin to be ashamed of my own magnificence”

You can find mugs and magnets with these quotes on at the shop if you fancy a souvenir. 

Strawberry Hill House Cafe by Roots and Berries
Strawberry hill House Cafe by Roots and Berries

How much does it cost to get into Strawberry Hill?

Tickets cost £14.50 for an adult and £16 with a voluntary donation. Under 16-year-olds can enter for £1.50. Students get a slight discount as well as Art Fund members and Carers.  

Let me assure you that it is worth every penny as the house and interiors are stunning! Every penny spent ensures the conservation of this incredible house.

If you’re an English Heritage member you get 10% off so remember to select this option at ticket checkout or show your card to the staff on the day when buying tickets. 

It’s good to note that entry to the gardens is completely free and you can also access the lovely café here without buying a ticket.

I would check the website for the latest prices and opening times in case they change.

Strawberry Hill House Library
Strawberry Hill House staircase

Opening hours

It’s always important to plan ahead when visiting Strawberry Hill House as it isn’t open every day of the week. 

The Garden Café is open from Saturday to Wednesday from 9 am – 4 pm and the Gothic mansion is open from Saturday to Wednesday from 11 am – 4 pm. 

So, I would avoid Thursdays and Fridays as nothing will be open here at all! 

Strawberry hill House

How to get to Strawberry Hill House? 

Strawberry Hill House is located near Twickenham which is on the outskirts of London in Richmond-upon-Thames. It’s around 12 miles from the city centre. 

If you’re heading here from central London, there is a train station for Strawberry Hill and you can take a direct train from London Waterloo.

Alternatively, you can take the London Underground to Richmond and then switch to the 33 bus heading to Strawberry Vale. 

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also access the house on foot or bicycle via the Thames Path from attractions like Hampton Court Palace and Teddington Lock. 

If you’re driving, you can find the house in Twickenham and there is free parking at the site. There aren’t many road signs so it’s best to use a SatNav or Maps to find it. 

The address for SatNavs is 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, TW1 4ST. Click here for a Google Pin! 

Strawberry Hill House Staircase

Parking 

If you’re driving to Strawberry Hill House, you’ll be happy to know that there is a free parking area you can use.

This is extremely rare for London so I grabbed this opportunity with both hands! For example, parking at Hampton Court costs £2 an hour. 

The only thing to note is that the parking area is quite small and when it’s full there is no overflow. So, on weekends or summer days, I would opt to visit earlier rather than later to avoid any fuss. 

StrawberrY hill House Gardens
The Priory Garden

How long do you need to visit? 

I would leave around 2-4 hours to visit Strawberry Hill House & Gardens.

This will ensure that you get to see everything at a relaxed pace and you won’t be rushing around the house.

There is also the garden to explore and a cosy café to indulge in so you won’t want to rush. 

Strawberry Hill House
The Original Entrance of Strawberry Hill House
The Original Entrance of Strawberry Hill House

Is Strawberry Hill House worth visiting?

Yes, Strawberry Hill House has to be on your bucket list as it is one of the great houses in the UK.

Not only is this the birthplace of the Gothic novel and Gothic Revival architecture but the entire house is like nothing you have ever seen before. 

The team have worked so hard to bring Horace Walpole’s Gothic Castle back to life and it really is a special place. 

As it’s on the outskirts of London, it’s not overly busy and is a bit of a hidden gem. So, it’s a lovely area to escape the crowds.

There are also gardens to explore, a gift shop and a café to relax in as well so it makes a lovely day out.

Don’t skip a visit to Strawberry Hill House in London as feels as though it’s been plucked from the pages of a fairytale! 

Strawberry Hill House Library
Strawberry Hill House Library

My top tips for visiting 

  • Visit on a weekday – Strawberry Hill House can be quite busy on weekends so it’s best to visit on a weekday for a quieter experience.
  • Book ahead – There are time slots online you can book tickets for. On busier days, these can sell out. So, I would book ahead if you want to guarantee entry at a specific time.
  • Accessibility and assistance – Strawberry Hill is accessible for wheelchairs with a lift to the first floor. It also allows guidance dogs, has large print guides, is dementia friendly and provides Blue Badge parking. 
Strawberry Hill House

Things to do in Richmond-upon-Thames

After your visit to Strawberry Hill House, there is plenty to do in Richmond-upon-Thames and Teddington.

The most famous place to visit is Hampton Court Palace, the notorious residence of King Henry VIII and his court. 

You can take a journey through the Tudor rooms and learn the tragic stories of his six wives. Also, you can visit the Baroque apartments of King William III and Mary II. 

Richmond Park was also a historic royal hunting grounds of Charles I that is now a public green space with ancient trees and herds of deer. 

You can visit the gorgeous Isabella Plantation which comes alive in a fuchsia blossom during the springtime. 

If you love gardens, you can visit the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew to see the famous greenhouses. 

You can also visit Kew Palace nearby, the home of George III and Queen Charlotte. I loved the recent Bridgerton spin-off of these two on Netflix.

Marble Hill is a delightful 18th-century Neo-Palladian Villa that you can visit and is now protected by English Heritage. 

Anne Boleyn Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace

FAQs

Why is Strawberry Hill House famous? It’s famous for its Gothic Revival Architecture. So much so, that many people call this style ‘Strawberry Hill Gothic’ and it’s inspired many other houses since!

How did Strawberry Hill House get its name? The area was originally called ‘Chopp’d-Straw Hill’ but eventually, it became known as ‘Strawberry Hill Shot’. So, when Horace Walpole leased the land in 1747 he gave it a more romantic name of Strawberry Hill House.

Why was Strawberry Hill House built? It was built by Horace Walpole as his summer residence and he called it his ‘little Gothic castle’. 

Who owns Strawberry Hill House today? The Strawberry Hill Trust owns and protects the house on a 120-year lease. They’ve worked incredibly hard to bring this mansion back to Horace Walpole’s original design and have done an incredible job! Every penny donated here ensures it’s survival for years to come.

Strawberry hill House Library

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Strawberry Hill House Gothic Castle Horace Walpole