Text and photographs, except for the one of the ceiling, by Jacqueline Banerjee. The ceiling was taken by Rictor Norton and David Allen, and posted on Flickr. The colour has been slightly lightened. This has been reused, with thanks, under the terms of the Creative Commons license. [You may also use the other 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.]

Strawberry Hill, Round Room fireplace

The scagliola (or scagliuola) fireplace with inlaid mosaic, against the rich damask wall-hanging of the Round Drawing-Room.

The Round Room by Robert Adam and others, in Horace Walpole's Grade I listed house at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham. This first floor room is in the tower at the end of the Gallery, and is part of the "state room" suite where Walpole entertained his visitors. The smooth transition here was achieved despite the fact that the Gallery was completed in 1763, to the designs of Thomas Pitt (1737-93) and the Round Room not until 1771, and largely by Robert Adam (1728-92). From the doorway there is a fine view back along the whole length of the Gallery, and the room itself is hung with the same red damask. Besides this vista, it has several other quite spectacular features. One is the chimney-piece, from a design described by Walpole as "taken from the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey; improved by Mr Adam, and beautifully executed in white marble inlaid with scagliuola, by Richter" (24). This is a good example of the kind of insouciant borrowing from ecclesiastical sources that riled Charles Eastlake (see the commentary on Strawberry Hill's hall and staircase), but, for the present purpose, it has been "lifted" again by Adam, and the use of the inlaid mosaic-work strikes exactly the right decorative note for such a room.

Left: The door inserted in the nineteenth century by Lady Waldegrave, echoing the Adams ceiling above. Note the elaborate gilded Adam frieze, too. (b) The Adam ceiling.

When Strawberry Hill passed into the hands of Frances, Lady Waldegrave (1821-79), additions were built to the south of the existing house, and a door was inserted here to lead on to further rooms to which this society hostess could lead her many visitors. The design is in keeping with the ceiling, which Walpole explains was "taken from a round window in old Saint Paul's; the frieze was designed by Mr Adam."

The Gothic windows, with richly decorated plasterwork, also in Gothic style, both above and below.

Again, Lady Waldegrave's hand is seen, this time in the richly heraldic stained glass with which she filled the windows. The Round Drawing-Room, much praised for its "fluid shape and beautiful proportions" (Chalcraft and Viscardi 91) showed what could be achieved with this kind of space, and also marked it out as the province of the wealthy and titled. How much the tower houses of the nineteenth century owed to this example is debatable. According to Kenneth Clark, the "castles" among the Gothic country houses that followed Strawberry Hill were a "product of Romanticism quite uninfluenced by Walpole" (49). But it is hard to believe that such a well-known house as this, a sensation when first completed, and a highly fashionable venue again under the ownership of Lady Waldegrave, was not at least one contributing factor in their proliferation.

Related Material


Chalcraft, Anna, and Judith Viscardi. Strawberry Hill: Horace Walpole's Gothic Castle. London: Frances Lincoln, 2007.

Clark, Kenneth. The Gothic Revival: An Essay in the History of Taste. London: Penguin (Pelican), 1964.

"Horace Walpole 1717-1797 and Strawberry Hill" (Local History Notes). London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. Web. 25 August 2014.

"Strawberry Hill: About the House: The Round Room." Strawberry Hill House. Web. 24 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 25 August 2014