18 November 2010

Strawberry Hill is a Gothic delight

The first look at Strawberry Hill tells you that it is something special.

The official website tells us that Strawberry Hill was created by Horace Walpole in the 18th century and is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture.

Now we can see for ourselves how true this is because the house has just reopened after an extensive period of restoration which is still in progress.

Outside diggers are hard at work in the garden (sadly it looks as though it's to build a car park) and inside some of the rooms are still closed suggesting that further delights are to come.

The tour of the house starts with a short film and then it's on with the overshoes and the exploration begins.

The star attraction is the main stateroom that occupies most of the first floor on the side of the house that overlooks the garden. Here the ceiling is simply stunning and compels you to look upwards and then to follow the decoration as it drips down the wall where the obscenely decorated fireplaces then demand attention.

The long wall on the other side has a series of windows (you can see them in the picture above) that entice the sunlight in to dampen the effect of the dark read walls and give the eye something else to look at if they ever tire of the internal decorations.

The other rooms are in various states of restoration.

Some are bare apart from a couple of features, e.g. a fireplace or the windows, while others have ornate plasterwork and screens.

Stained glass windows are everywhere, apparently bought as a job-lot from Holland, adding a splash of colour and interest to even the most modest room - though "modest" in a Gothic folly is obviously a relative term.

The house is large but not enormous and a tour takes around half an hour, maybe forty minutes. The website suggests it should be one and a half hours but I can only assume that they have factored in a generous amount of time in the museum room, shop and cafe.

Strawberry Hill is a unique house and has to be seen close up and in person to appreciate the detail of the original conceit and the way that this has been painstakingly restored. This closer look confirms the first impression that the house is special.

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