Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole’s Georgian home in Twickenham, west London, is opening to the public once again on Saturday 2 October, 2010, after a £9 million restoration.
The house, built as a Gothic fantasy by Walpole, son of Britain’s first prime minister, Robert, between 1747 and his death in 1792, is one of the country’s most influential buildings. It was the forerunner of the Gothic revival movement that produced so many Victorian churches, town halls, railway stations and even the Houses of Parliament.
For years Strawberry Hill was on English Heritage’s at risk register and in 2004 the World Monuments Fund listed it as one of the 100 most-endangered heritage sites onthe planet.
The restoration - which was part-funded by a £4.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with further grants from English Heritage, the World Monuments Fund and numerous other charitable trusts and individual patrons - has involved painstaking research and work from highly skilled craftsmen who have reproduced fine wool damask wall coverings, applied many yards of gold leaf and repaired delicate wooden Gothic details.
Horace Walpole was an MP himself, and a great collector, letter writer and novelist. He wrote The Castle of Otranto (1764), the first Gothic novel, which has never been out of print.
The architect Robert Adam worked on the house but most of it was designed by Walpole himself with the help of friends.
* Strawberry Hill opens Saturday to Wednesday, starting this Saturday, October 2 to December 22, reopening in spring. Tickets are £8; pre-booking is essential (strawberryhillhouse.org.uk).