Saturday, 15 January 2011

Windows on the gothic world

Now I’m looking through the oval window and am reminded of the words from cult retro children’s TV programme, Play School. But this is a very grown up play school. It’s Strawberry Hill, the 18th century gothic revival style residence of Horace Walpole, former home to his world famous private collection of curiosities and works of art, and inspiration for the first ever gothic novel -The Castle of Otranto.

Walpole called his castle a ‘plaything house’, as its design deliberately avoided the fashionable classical features of the time, such as columns, pediments, order and symmetry. In collaboration with a group of amateur architect friends, Walpole based his designs on the architecture of the great gothic cathedrals and abbeys.

According to the website, “Medieval tombs, arched doorways, rose windows and carved screens were models for his fireplaces, windows, doors and ceilings. Books of prints rather than the buildings themselves were his reference point and, instead of carved stone, the rooms and ornament of Strawberry Hill are wood, plaster and papier mache.”

Walpole intended a tour of Strawberry Hill to be a theatrical experience. “You enter a gloomy hall and pass up a staircase of grey stony appearance before finally entering the sumptuous state apartment – a burst of crimson and gold.”

The house has recently been refurbished to the tune of £9 million and I took a sneak preview, before it fully re-opens to the public in April this year. The works were still in progress - I doubt they will ever be finished, judging by the painstaking attention to detail and requirement for specialist conservation and regular maintenance.

The renovation of Strawberry Hill is a masterpiece of professional craftsmanship down to the very last detail. From the carpentry and gilding, through to the glass painting and even the careful choice of colours used for the decoration – everything has been done with absolute precision and expertise – as you can see from these photographs of some of the fabulous hand painted glass windows.

Gothic style has become increasingly popular in recent years, undergoing something of a modern makeover in fashion as well as interiors. And, thinking ahead to Valentine’s Day, fans of gothic style might like this vintage heart shaped curiosity box from ShopCurious. Or you could always book a visit to the curiously romantic Strawberry Hill instead…

Will you?

PS Read more about post-gothic steampunk style over at The Dabbler blog


worm said...

thanks for the tour susan - i'd never hear of strawberry hill before (well I had but I didnt know anything about it)Wonder if Pugin had a look round as a young man and wandered off with a load of ideas?

Jan said...

Echoing Worm here - i.e. heard of it but knew nothing, so thanks for this.
Having checked the website, I think you're right Susan, they'll probably never finish.
Incredibly detailed.

Len♥reNeverM♥re said...

Glorious~ oh all those colours!
Thanks Susan, learn new things everyday!


Profoundly Superficial said...

Silly Me!! For a moment I thought that these were artworks by Gilbert and George!!