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10 June 2009

Glimpse the world's first gothic house

Adapted from a smaller property in the mid-18th century by Horace Walpole, the son of former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Strawberry Hill in Twickenham was the world’s first Gothic Revival house.

The building is Grade One and was registered as a building at risk by English Heritage in 1996, and in 2004 was included on the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites. Since it's appearance on the BBC's Restoration in 2004, a 120 year lease has been signed (in 2007) between St Mary’s University College and the Strawberry Hill Trust, so an £8.9 million restoration project could begin. That process continues, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, but the downside is that this has closed the house to public openings until 2010.

Walpole originally bought Strawberry Hill, which had been built in 1698 as a modest house by the coachmen of the Earl of Bradford, as a small villa in 1747-8, and subsequently doubled its size, expanded the plot from 5 acres to 46 acres and gave it a number of towers and battlements.

When the 'little gothic castle' was completed it had a significant impact on the subsequent trends in architecture, and was a major influence on the nineteenth century Gothic revival which gave us buildings like the Houses of Parliament, St Pancras Station and Tower Bridge.

Public tours are off the menu until the current restoration programme is completed, but it is possible to book private tours, and see the building from the outside.

For more information, visit www.friendsofstrawberryhill.org

Click here to see the location on a map.

^Picture from Flickr courtesy of Carrie Schmitz (many thanks)^

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