Thank you to the knowledgeable guides and kind receptionists at Strawberry Hill who helped me on my visits there. Photographs by the author. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly and educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL, or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Little Parlour and "Beauty Room"
Armorial painted glass, recreated to the eighteenth-century design, over the door to the Little Parlour.
The architect John Chute (1701-76) was responsible for the early building work on Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill, when the suite of small rooms on the southern side of the original house was altered to suit Walpole's purposes. The room in the middle, its door directly opposite the hall door, became the Little Parlour. Chute, an important member of Walpole's select "Committee of Taste," was "the antiquarian and heraldic influence on Walpole" (Chalcraft and Viscardi 9), and heraldic crests and devices featured in the house from the very start.
Close-up of the Walpole family arms.
The glass panel over the Little Parlour door was described in the sale catalogue of 1842 as a "very beautiful specimen of richly coloured old stained glass, over the door, the Arms of Walpole quartered, with rich mosaic ornaments and border" (Item 70, p. 245). Originally executed by Walpole's first "glass man," William Price the Younger (d. 1765), it was, in more ways than one, a sign of things to come. As far as the house itself goes, some of the elements here would be much in evidence throughout, notably the Saracen's head at the top, associating Walpole's ancestors with the Crusades, and the motto "Fari Quae Sentiat," an exhortation from Walpole's namesake, Horace, to a different kind of bravery: "Say what one feels."
Most of the English glass found buyers in the sale (see Peover 5), but family crests and heraldic devices from Walpole's Dutch and Belgian sources seem to have been less sought-after, and many remained in their glass panels. The upper part of the window shown on the left here is inside the Beauty Room. This was the small room to the right of the Little Parlour, which was first used as a small bedchamber (the Yellow Bedchamber), later known as the Beauty Room, and now rechristened the Discovery Room. The window features a shield and two impressive crests, as well as some faded and/or sunlit scenes and, in the lowest part, several magical little peasant figures, dancing, playing an instrument, and so on. The catalogue specifically mentions the "three Coats of Arms" here (Item 74, p. 246). These pieces either remained unsold, or were among those bought back by the Waldegraves (see Lady Waldegrave). Walpole himself was fond of the old heraldry: "I call them the achievements of the old Counts of Strawberry," he wrote to a diplomatic friend, Horace Mann, in 1750 (qtd. in Peover 5). These "achievements" seem to have reinforced his sense of belonging to a long and splendid aristocratic past.
Antique painted glass at the top of the China Closet window.
To the left of the Little Parlour is the China Closet, adapted from a kitchen in order to show off Walpole's china collection. The catalogue description of this window is as follows: "St Nicholas, St Peter and St Paul and two Allegorical Pieces, with Birds and Fishes at the side" (Item 68, p. 245). St Peter with his keys, and St Paul holding the sword with which he was beheaded, take pride of place. The two saints bear between them the veil of St Veronica with the miraculous imprint of Jesus's face. Peover tells us that "the stern figures are typical of the School of Leiden at the early part of the sixteenth century" (18). Delightful parrots still grace either side of the left light, while a solitary swallow perches on the far right.
Especially significant for promoting the use of such glass in the domestic context was Walpole's integration of his painted glass into the interior design of the rooms generally. Like the door into the Little Parlour, for example, the chimneypiece inside the room features a modelled Saracen's head over a plain shield at the centre (see the Lewis Walpole Library's item, "Little Parlour"), while the chimney-piece shown alongside, in the adjacent China Closet, sports three coloured blazoned shields along the top. Here was a precedent for Pugin with his martlet (heraldic bird) and motto ("En Avant") in glass, wallpaper and so on at the the Grange, Ramsgate and William Morris with his "Si Je Puis" and oak-leaves on tiling at Red House, Bexleyheath.
More Stained Glass at Strawberry Hill
- The Great Parlour/Refectory
- The Blue Bed-Chamber
- The Library
- The Star Chamber
- The Gallery
- The Round Drawing-Room
Chalcraft, Anna, and Judith Viscardi. Strawberry Hill: Horace Walpole's Gothic Castle. London: Frances Lincoln, 2007.
"Little Parlour." Strawberry Hill Tour. The Lewis Walpole Library (Yale Univesrity Library site). Web. 1 September 2014.
Peover, Michael. Strawberry Hill: Renaissance Glass. London: Scala, 2010.
Robins, George. A Catalogue of the Classic Contents of Strawberry Hill Collected by Horace Walpole (auction catalogue). Internet Archive. Contributed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library. Web. 1 September 2014.
Last modified 1 September 2014