Text and photographs by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Left: View just inside the door, looking up the stairs. (b) Heraldic antelope on the first newel post.

Stairway from main entrance hall in Horace Walpole's Grade I listed house at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. The hall floor is tiled with hexagonal pink tiling, making a pleasant contrast with the balustrade. The latter was designed by Walpole's friend Richard Bentley. Walpole's title was that of Lord Orford, and the balustrade features antelopes on the newel posts because this was one of the supporters on the Orford arms. The trompe l'oeil Gothic paper, areas of which were uncovered during the recent restoration, is mentioned by Walpole himself in his description of the house: "This hall is united with the staircase, and both are hung with gothic paper, painted by one Tudor, from the screen of Prince Arthur's tomb in the cathedral of Worcester" (8). This kind of copying is a taste of what is to come, and exactly the sort of thing that irritated Charles Eastlake, who wrote, in his commentary on the house:

The interior, or rather that portion of it which Walpole designed, is just what one might expect from a man who possessed a vague admiration for Gothic without the knowledge necessary for a proper adaptation of its features. Ceilings, screens, niches, &c., are all copied, or rather parodied, from existing examples, but with utter disregard for the original purpose of the design. To Lord Orford, Gothic was Gothic, and that sufficed. He would have turned an altar-slab into a hall table, or made a cupboard of a piscina, with the greatest com- placency if it only served his purpose. [47]

Left: Close-up, showing the replica of the original lantern. Left: The half-landing, with two more heraldic antelopes on display, and shields on the wall above.

The hall was intended to be gloomy, for the Gothic effect. In fact, everything was done for the effect, rather than on the sound Gothic principles that A. W. N. Pugin would later be promoting. But these were early days, and the effect itself was important, because of its impact and influence on Walpole's many visitors. Part of this effect here was undoubtedly the curious lamp. "In the well of the staircase," wrote Walpole, "... hangs a Gothic lantern of tin japanned, designed by Mr Bentley, and filled with painted glass" (8). The painted glass too was indicative of what was to come. Not unexpectedly, the listing text numbers the hall among the house's "notable interiors."

Related Material


Eastlake, Charles Locke. A History of the Gothic Revival. London: Longmans, Green, 1872. Internet Archive. Web. 22 August 2014.

Strawberry Hill List Entry. English Heritage. Web. 22 August 2014.

Walpole, Horace. A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole at Strawberry-Hill near Twickenham, Middlesex. Edited version in a booklet compiled and written by Carole Patey and published by the Strawberry Hill Trust, 2014. Available at the house.

Last modified 22 August 2014