Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Strawberry Hill Gothic...

This blog about a recent visit to Strawberry Hill in Twickenham was originally posted on the eHarlequin website.   The villa (the white section of building below) has recently underdone a major restoration and we were honoured to be given a guided tour by the chairman of the Stawberry Hill Trust.   After being shown round we took tea in the Great Cloister - bottom left in this photograph.

Strawberry Hill was Horace Walpole's summer villa, built between 1748 and 1790. In it, Walpole's love of the medieval is made manifest in every wall and window. The next picture (below) shows you the house - or should it be castle? - as you approach it from the road...


I love the round tower, it has a Norman look to it.

Above is what is called the 'Prior's Garden' complete with gothic arches. Stawberry Hill has recently been restored so you can see much of the building as Horace Walpole might have expected it to be seen. Walpole wanted visitors to Strawberry Hill to have a theatrical experience and the mood shifts dramatically as the tour progresses. There is one constant - Walpole's fascination with the medieval can be seen at every turn. Here a heraldic beast masquerades as a newel post on the stairs...

The ceiling of the library is rich with pictures of knights and heraldic devices...
And below is the most splendid room of all, the Gallery. The design for the ceiling is taken from a side aisle in Westminster Abbey, and the restoration team have restored it using real gold leaf. Wool and silk damask wallcoverings have been specially made to match the originals.


Strawberry Hill is exactly as you might imagine a small palace to be. But it is not just somewhere to enjoy looking at gothic revival. Horace Walpole was so inspired by his 'castle' that he wrote what has come to be seen as the first gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. He said that the novel was 'an attempt to blend the ancient and the modern.' A description which seems to fit the house too.   Here's the library.   The carved section at the top swings out to allow you to get at books on the high shelves.


Do you like the idea of a medieval romance that blends both the ancient and the modern? How much history do you like? Do you prefer your romances to be solidly grounded in history?   How do you feel about time-shift romances?

Here's a link to the Strawberry Hill website.

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