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23 July 2018

london days out | strawberry hill house and gardens

there are very few things i am prepared to travel across london in the baking heat for; one of them is my job, so i sort of have to do that, but the other is when i am invited to experience one of the many wonders of greater london. in this case, a twilight tour of strawberry hill house and garden, to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition that returns this summer as part of the west london wonders campaign, which aims to highlight a few of the west's best kept secrets and venues.

the house itself has a chequered past, but there is no denying its beauty. gothic by nature but certainly not by history (it was built in that style in the 18th century - and largely out of paper machier, which, was bonkers until you actually knock on a wall and feel like you might actually punch through), the facade of the house is all for show - and it does a bloody good job, too, because there's nothing else quite like this "little gothic castle" as far as i've seen.

what was once an exclusive and rare collection of valuables curated by one horace walpole, has over the years - and through various inheritors of the land and home, become a shell of its former self. thanks in part to a 28-day auction by one of walpole's greedy and "riotous" descendants in the mid 1800s, the majority of the home's contents were sold on for cash to help square off some debts. since then, and many, many caretakers later, a great number of hours have gone into locating many of the remaining pieces of art still doing the rounds in european auction houses (yes, to this day! parts of the original auction are now in the tower of london, too!), and they're all coming home - finally, this summer in a seen-to-be-believed exhibition inside the house.

for the public, this will be the only opportunity to see strawberry hill as its owner intended. this is pretty heavy news, considering walpole was considered to be one of the most important collectors in the 18th century - as well as being the son of the first british prime minister. he built strawberry hill for the happiness of the public, and finally, the public will get to see what his great vision really entailed.. from collections of paintings and furniture to sculptures, libraries and great curiosities, the exhibition will have something for everyone, and so long as we get some rain soon, so will the garden.

strawberry hill house stands beside the river thames just beyond twickenham, and is an easy trip from central london. the house and gardens are totally free to enter, and open 7 days a week - unheard of, and private, guided tours are available 10-11am and 6pm monday to friday only. i would definitely suggest a tour guide, as there is so much sordid history to hear about inside the house that you just simply won't be able to fathom the lot on your own (the wikipedia tour won't quite have the same effect).

the west london wonders campaign isn't just about strawberry hill house and gardens, but that's where we started. i now have in my possession an activity book aimed at children that i intend to use as a guide when i take a few more day-trips out west to see what i can see-see-see. fulham palace is firmly on the list of places to visit next, as well as dorich house museum and richmond park. so, for someone who professes to hate travelling west, ya gal has a few more west london adventures planned for this summer.

what's your favourite place to visit out in west london? gimme all the inspo you have!

*i was a guest of west london wonders, but all words are my own.