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Title: Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House (1749): Architectural Gothic
Author(s): Lindfield, Peter
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Editor(s): Bacon, S
Citation: Lindfield P (2018) Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House (1749): Architectural Gothic. In: Bacon S (ed.) The Gothic: A Reader. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 153-160.
Issue Date: 2018
Date Deposited: 14-Dec-2016
Abstract: First paragraph: In May 1747, Horace Walpole leased Chopp'd-Straw Hall, Twickenham, from Mrs Elizabeth Chenevix of Charing Cross, London, for a period of seven years, but a year later he purchased the property outright as the basis for country villa and Summer retreat. In itself, the fashionable Thames-side suburb of Twickenham held considerable appeal for a man of social, literary and political ambitions such as Walpole. As he would later record in his lighthearted poem The Parish Register of Twickenham (c. 1758), the area had long been associated with an illustrious group of writers, scientists and statesmen, among them the redoubtable wit and man of letters Alexander Pope; the politician Henry St John, Lord Bolingbroke; John Fielding, the social reformer and half-brother of the better-known novelist Henry; the sixteenth-century philosopher, politician and scientist Francis Bacon; and Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, the seventeenth-century royalist politician and historiographer. Described in this poem as 'the Muse's favourite seat' and 'the Grace's lov'd retreat', Twickenham was the geographical realisation of many of Walpole's aspirations. More immediately, Chopp'd-Straw Hall had been home to a succession of distinguished inhabitants that included the actor and Poet Laureate Colley Cibber, a one-time Bishop of Durham, an erstwhile Duke of Chandos, and the fashionable Mrs Chenevix, owner of a chic London toyshop, herself; when in residence at this address, Walpole found himself in particularly good company. Over the next two-and-a-half decades and more, the modest collection of asymmetric seventeenth-century tenements that comprised the original building were transformed through 'great additions and improvements' in the Gothic style and eventually renamed as 'Strawberry Hill', a name that Walpole, in true antiquarian fashion, claimed to have uncovered in the original title-deeds for the property (Fig.1). His motives for these 'Gothicizing' architectural endeavours were as much sentimental as they were aesthetic: Strawberry Hill, as he wrote to George Montagu in 1753, was to be conceived as the 'castle (I am building) of my ancestors', the site of noble familial and genealogical origins that, ever since Houghton Hall, his father's Palladian-style home in Norfolk, had passed into the ownership of his eldest brother, Horace thought to be lacking.
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