Murder, Incest And A Drowned Cat - Masterpieces Return Home To A Stunning Building

Lost Treasures, Strawberry Hill House ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 12 months ago

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Murder, Incest And A Drowned Cat - Masterpieces Return Home To A Stunning Building Lost Treasures, Strawberry Hill House 4
Photo: Kilian O'Sullivan

If Walt Disney took a castle and plonked it down in South West London, then we imagine it would look a lot like Strawberry Hill House. The stunning Gothic revivalist building near Twickenham is a must see for architecture fanatics.

It used to belong to the original Gothic novelist Horace Walpole, but most of his belongings were sold off in the subsequent years. Now it's been restored to its former glory, as loads of them are back for a special exhibition that's attempting to make the house look and feel like it was when Walpole resided here.

Photo: Kilian O'Sullivan

There are some fantastic objects on display including a striking sculpture of a Roman eagle and an exquisitely decorate hunting horn showing scenes from the life of St. Hubert — who converted to Christianity while out on a hunt.

It's not just the quality of objects on display but also the fascinating stories behind them. There's unique about a Chinese ceramic goldfish bowl, but it's the one that Walpole's favourite cat Selima drowned in when she tried to snatch some fish out of it.  

Courtesy Strawberry Hill House.

A cardinal's hat is claimed to have belonged to Cardinal Wolsey, he of Henry VIII's time, and a painting of Walpole's three great nieces by Joshua Reynolds is both technically excellent and was used as an advertisement of their beauty to potential suitors.

Courtesy Strawberry Hill House.

Another painting of note is by William Hogarth of Sarah Malcolm in prison. Malcolm was convicted of triple murder and Hogarth painted her in Newgate prison before she was hanged in Fleet Street.

The most bizarre story within this collection relates to illustrations for Walpole's drama Mysterious Mother. The drawings may not be too risqué but the play itself featured two counts of incest: first between a mother and son, then the son and his sister.

The fantastic blinging library. Photo: Killian O'Sullivan.

These are just a few of the items and their associated stories, but there's lots to discover in this reunification of a home with its former belongings. Strawberry Hill House is a spectacular stately home that we recommended to everyone after its 2015 refurbishment, and now there's even more reasons to pay it a visit.

Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole's collection is on at Strawberry Hill House until 24 February. Tickets are £16.50.

Last Updated 22 October 2018