Formal borders are mixed with groves of trees and winding paths.
The grove of lime trees has been replanted along with the serpentine wood.
Don’t miss the Chapel in the Wood a few minutes walk from Strawberry Hill House and separated by later buildings. Built c1760, it was probably designed by Richard Bentley. The carved stone front was ‘inspired by the Audley Tomb at Salisbury’ with ‘pretty blue and gold fan vaulting and blue and yellow tiles’ – Pevsner.
Walpole believed that poetry, art and gardening were inseparably linked but today, for me, the garden lacks spirit. Sadly much of the garden and the view of the River has been lost to housing and although the shell bench has been recreated, it bears little resemblance to an unsigned drawing of the seat at the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
On your visit, make sure you leave time to explore the house – it’s stunning.
The house and gardens are managed by Strawberry Hill House and Garden Trust.
The car park is small with permit parking in surrounding streets.
The gardens are Sunday to Thursday but before visiting, check the opening times for the House.
Horace Walpole, politician, author, patron of poets and collector bought the remainder of the lease of Chopp’d Straw Hall in 1747 – he wrote: ‘It is a little plaything that I got out of Mrs Chevenix’s shop and is the prettiest bauble you ever saw’.
Walpole transformed the house into ‘a gingerbread castle’ and used it during the summer to display his many artefacts – by 1797, he had over 4000 objects. He opened the house to the public from October until May although ticket holders ‘are desired not to bring children’.
Influenced by William Kent, Walpole also created a garden. This was not to reflect the ‘gloomth’ of gothic architecture but instead was to be nothing but ‘riant and the gaity of nature’. It was to be filled with tuberoses, clove carnations, honeysuckle, acacias and lilac.
Walpole died in 1797 and left the estate to his cousin’s daughter and sculptor Anne Seymore Damer. In 1811, Strawberry Hill was given to Elizabeth Waldegrave, Walpole’s great niece. Her grandson John Waldegrave died young and Strawberry Hill was inherited by his brother, George, the 7th Earl of Waldegrave. Imprisoned for ‘riotous behaviour’, Waldegrave neglected the house and in 1842, sold most of Walpole’s collection of artefacts at auction.
In 1850s, Lord Waldegrave’s widow married for the third time to Granville Harcourt. With a sizeable income, Frances restored the house and garden, faithful to Walpole’s beliefs. After her death in 1879, Strawberry Hill House was bought bythe De Stern family. It was sold again in 1923, to St Mary’s University College. Strawberry Hill leases the house from the College.