Strawberry Hill House is a fantastical villa consisting of a multitude of towers, battlements, elaborate decorations and incredible vaulted ceilings rising from a Disney princess-style grande maison, situated about half an hour from central London. It was the work of Horace Walpole, a writer, art historian, man of letters, antiquarian and politician as well as being the son of Britain's first Prime Minister Horace Walpole. He wrote the first gothic novel, initiating a spooky literary genre still going strong.
Constructed in four stages between 1749-1776, it is a flamboyant experiment in Gothic revival architecture, incorporating features of the most celebrated artists of the time and housing an eclectic collection of over 4,000 objects as well as scores of prints, drawings and books.
As you walk around its interior, you are presented with a series of journeys from dark to light, a theatrical explosion of colour and form which included papier-mâché friezes, Gothic-themed wallpaper, fireplaces copied from medieval tombs, a Holbein chamber evoking the court of Henry VIII, Dutch blue and white tiles on the floor, and modern oil paintings, china and carpets. Much of his original collection was sold off 50 years after his death to pay for debts of the owner to which it had been passed, but there are still significant objects to give a flavour of this once great collection. And if you are passing by the Victoria and Albert Museum, there is a case of additional items to boot.