In bright bright house, there is a dark dark room: Strawberry House, Twickenham

April 12, 2013

Strawberry Hill in Twickenham was the Geogian home of Horace Walpole, son of Sir Robert. The building has recently undergone a comprehensive restoration, and has been reopened to the public. It is regarded as an important keystone building in the gothic revival movement. Horace was a keen architectural historian, and was enthused to demonstrate his interests through his home. I went a long to take a look.


Among the corridors with hand painted wallpaper, flat and graphic and the oozy gloss painted walls. And the brilliantly sanded bleached wood floors and ceilings with perfect gold highlights. And the sealed ex-cloister filled with formica café furniture. The deadened matt finished surfaces, and the cheery volunteer staff. And the stage sets with safety and access compliances. Among the desolation.


There is a room that is full and layered with gloomth and objects: stacked furniture, carpet rolls, boxes of files, clothes rail and hangers, unpainted paneling, histories of wall coverings and darkening ceiling. A palimpsest. It is comforting, a place to pull out a chair, dust it down, sit and read a gothic novel from cover to cover without flinching. It is a room that can tell a story without the aid of the human voice, a room that draws you in and shuts the door behind you. It is the only room in a house that was once full of rooms.





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