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Oxted & District History Society

STRAWBERRY HILL HOUSE,  known as ‘Horace Walpole’s little gothic castle’ was originally known as ‘Chopped Straw Hall’ because part of it was built in 1698 by the Earl of Bradford’s coachman. 

It was said that he could only afford it by selling off good hay and giving inferior ‘chopped straw’ to the Earl’s horses!

Walpole first took a lease in 1747 but in 1749 bought the house and the original five acres before starting an energetic programme of extending and gothicizing the property. Just as Lord Burlington had pioneered the neo-Palladian style with Chiswick House, so Walpole wrote ‘I give myself a Burlington-air and say that Chiswick is a model of Grecian architecture, Strawberry Hill is to be so of Gothic’.

Horace Walpole lived at Strawberry Hill from 1747 until his death in 1797 and it was then owned by his collateral descendants, the Waldegrave family, until 1879.  After being sold to the de Stern family, it was then sold to Catholic Education Service for use as St Mary’s College.  In 2007, the CES leased the property to the Strawberry Hill Trust whilst retaining adjoining buildings and land for the College.

Since 2007, the Trust, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, has spent £9 million on restoration so that the building could be re-opened in late 2010. 

This is still very much a ‘work-in-progress’ and it is fortunate that there are extensive records in existence showing the house in Walpole’s day and every effort has been – and is being – made to bring it back to its original condition with the colour scheme that Walpole had chosen. An interesting video is viewable on youtube

The link is: - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zV1ql8Tfqcw#!

Our visit will begin with a video insight into the restoration work; the craftsmen employer and the unique skills preserved for posterity by this and other like restoration projects.

On arrival, we shall have coffee or tea and shortbread in the Café, which has been created in the great cloister, before having an introductory talk followed by a guided tour, in two groups, of the house, which lasts for about one and a half hours. 

We shall have a sandwich lunch in the Café

After lunch, there will be an opportunity to explore the grounds, visit the small museum and gift shop or retrace your footsteps through the house.

We hope to arrange an optional guided tour of the gardens at an extra cost of £5 per person,

The programme for our visit on Wednesday 3rd. July 2013:

9.00 am.Depart by coach from Skinners Yard.

9.05 am.Pick-up from outside Oxted Council Offices.

11.00 am.Arrive at Strawberry Hill with coffee & biscuits.

11.30 am. Introductory Talk & Guided tour of House

1.30 pm.Sandwich lunch in the Café.

2.30 pm.Free-time in Grounds, Museum and Gift Shop

& optional guided tour of the garden.

4.30 pm.Depart by coach for Oxted, arriving back at 6.00pm approx.

The cost will be £37.50 including entry, coffee and biscuits on arrival and a sandwich lunch at Strawberry Hill house.  Please return the tear-off slip to me with your cheque (payable to Oxted & District History Society) as soon as possible and, preferably, by the end of April.  Please indicate whether you would like to join the guided garden tour.

Please send a cheque payable to The Oxted & District History Society   to: -

Christopher Pendred, The Weald Cottage, Pastens Road, Oxted, Surrey.  RH8 0RE

If you have any questions call: - 01883 722362 or mobile:  07774 258 641

Please reserve for me …………Places on the visit to Strawberry Hill on Wednesday 3rd July 2013

I enclose a cheque for …………………………………    @ £37.50 per person,

  Payable to: - Oxted & District History Society

I would like to join the guided tour of the garden at £5 per person: -YES / NO

Name (Block capitals) ………………………………………………Tel No …………..…………………………...


Our next Summer outing on Wednesday July 3rd 2013 is to

STRAWBERRY HILL House & Horace Walpole.