Strawberry Hill House, often referred to simply as Strawberry Hill, is the Gothic Revival villa that was built in Twickenham, London by Horace Walpole beginning in 1749. It is the type example of the “Strawberry Hill Gothic” style of architecture, and it prefigured the nineteenth-century Gothic revival. Walpole, an author in his own right (among many other things) was said to have been inspired by his home, to write the novel, “The Castle of Otranto” generally regarded as the first gothic novel.
Walpole rebuilt the existing house in stages starting in 1749, 1760, 1772 and 1776. These modifications added gothic features such as towers and battlements outside and elaborate decoration inside to create “gloomth” to suit Walpole’s collection of antiquarian objects, contrasting with the “riant” (smiling) garden. The interior included a Robert Adam fireplace; parts of the exterior were designed by James Essex. The garden contained a large seat shaped like a Rococo sea shell.
“Blaize Castle!” cried Catherine. “What is that’?”
“The finest place in England–
worth going fifty miles at any time to see.”
“What, is it really a castle, an old castle?”
To many readers of Northanger Abbey, Blaise Castle (or as Jane Austen wrote, Blaize Castle) is nothing more than a landmark Catherine failed to visit. Contemporary readers, however, pictured much more. Blaise Castle represented the shallowness and falseness not only of the Thorpes, but of the fiction of the time and the ideas it inspired.
Blaise Castle is a fraud. Built in the 1766 (two years after the release of the spine-chilling Castle of Otranto, the first of the gothic terror stories and a model for Ann Radcliffe’s books, notably, The Mysteries of Udolpho.) it was remodeled in 1796 by Humphrey Repton. Repton’s famous “Red Book” for Blaise Castle -sketches of his suggestions for his clients, with before and after plates, is now the property of the City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Continue reading A Blaise of Glory?