“It is a plaything-house... and it is the prettiest bauble you ever saw.”
Horace Walpole, June 1747

Strawberry Hill wins €10,000 Europa Nostra Grand Prize in Conservation

Press Release 9th July 2013


The Strawberry Hill Trust was awarded the prestigious Grand Prix of the 2013 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra in the conservation category at a special ceremony at the Odeion of Herodes Atticus in Athens, Greece on 16 June 2013.

The Europa Nostra Grand Prix award provides a prize of €10,000 for the Strawberry Hill Trust. A special plaque was given by the European Commission and Europa Nostra to mark the 2013 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra. The awards in the Conservation category recognise the Strawberry Hill Trust’s achievement in the 2007 to 2010 restoration of Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole’s house in Twickenham, Middlesex. Strawberry Hill is internationally famous as the birthplace of the gothic revival in domestic architecture in the 18th century.

“My warmest congratulations to everyone associated with the restoration of Strawberry Hill for its ‘well-deserved ‘Grand Prix’ in the 2013 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage /Europa Nostra awards. This distinction places Strawberry Hill on the European map for the best heritage projects, thanks to the outstanding work of its volunteers and professionals. The European Commission is committed to supporting projects like this through our new ‘Creative Europe’ programme, as well as through other EU funding. Cultural heritage is not just about protecting sites from the past which we hold in trust for future generations: it is also a catalyst for job creation and skills developments,” said Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

The awards were celebrated at a special ceremony at Strawberry Hill on 9 July 2013 with the unveiling of the Europa Nostra plaque by Baroness Andrews of Southover, OBE, Chair of English Heritage. The ceremony was attended by representatives from the Strawberry Hill Trust, major donors and supporters, local and national European government. The awards mark the first time that the high quality restoration, led by the Strawberry Hill Trust Chairman, Michael Snodin, with Project Architects Peter Inskip and Stephen Gee of Inskip + Jenkins, has been recognised on the European stage.

Baroness Southover said, “English Heritage is proud to have been able to make a significant and timely contribution to this important and exemplary project. Strawberry Hill is the most famous example of Gothic Revival architecture, which represents one of England’s most important contributions to European culture. Horace Walpole, the creator of Strawberry Hill, was one of the greatest dilettantes of the eighteenth century, and it is entirely fitting that a house created with so much sensitivity has now been so sensitively restored.

“It is hard to believe today that only a couple of years ago Strawberry Hill was included on English Heritage’s “Heritage at Risk” Register. The 2007 to 2010 restoration has now been recognised by the award of the 2013 European Union Prix for Cultural Heritage. I would like to congratulate all those who have been involved in this amazing project.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund’s grant of £821,000 to the Strawberry Hill Trust to complete the award winning restoration of Horace Walpole’s house was also celebrated at the event. The grant will enable the restoration of the five private rooms of the house which have seldom been shown to the public. Work will begin in autumn 2013.

Children from Archdeacon Cambridge CE Primary School took part in the celebrations by making fairy tale castles in a workshop. The children’s workshop activity marked the start of Summer at Strawberry, a programme of children’s activities which will take place over the summe in the house and garden.

Michael Snodin said, “We are delighted to be awarded the Grand Prix by Europa Nostra which is a tremendous accolade to the amazing restoration of Walpole’s villa. The high quality of conservation at Strawberry Hill has been recognised in the UK but never before on the international stage. This prize will enable more people from the UK and around the world to discover Horace Wapole’s house and encourage them to visit Strawberry Hill and find out for themselves about his legacy.”

-ENDS-

For further information and images, contact Beverley Vardigans tel: 0208 744 1241 email: beverley.vardigans@strawberryhillhouse.org.uk

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Strawberry Hill House Horace Walpole (1717 – 1797) discovered Chopp’d Straw Hall in 1747 when it was one of the last remaining sites available on the banks of the Thames in fashionable Twickenham. He set about transforming what was then a couple of cottages into his ‘little gothic castle’ with pinnacles, battlements and a round tower set in meadows and gardens with ‘cows and sheep studied for becoming the view’.

The castle (or villa) became a tourist attraction in Walpole’s life-time. He allowed four visitors a day and published rules for their guidance (no children allowed). His house-keeper frequently showed them round while Walpole retired to his cottage in the grounds. It was also a place for parties and Walpole delighted in entertaining foreign ambassadors and royalty as well as the English aristocracy, several of whom were near neighbours. ‘Dowagers like flounders inhabit all around,’ he wrote.

In creating Strawberry Hill, Walpole inspired a new fashion for gothic in both architecture and literature. While houses like nearby Marble Hill were based on classic traditions, order and symmetry, Walpole chose the architecture of gothic cathedrals as the inspiration for his villa. Chimney pieces, doors and ceilings are based on gothic vaulting, medieval tombs and rose windows. Winding corridors and gloomy passageways open into the sudden splendour of rooms like the Gallery; ‘all Gothicism, gold and looking glass’ as the poet Thomas Gray described it.

2. The Strawberry Hill Trust The Strawberry Hill Trust was formed in 2002 by a group of local people with a mission to save Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, and to open it to a wider public.

They embarked on a £9 million restoration part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, The World Monuments Fund and Trusts and Foundations as well as the Friends of Strawberry Hill. The house was opened in October 2010 and in the first year received 40,000 visitors.

Since opening in October 2010 Strawberry Hill has attracted over 70,000 visitors. In 2013 the Trust will emabark on a second phase of restoration with the result that from 2015 onwards Horace Walpole’s most private rooms will be open for public view for the first time in history.

A programme of events from family activities to artistic master classes, lectures, tours and workshops are held throughout the year. www.strawberryhillhouse.org.uk

3. The European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards Europa Nostra is a pan-European NGO which acts as the voice of cultural heritage. It represents 250 non-governmental and non-profit organisations from more than 50 European countries, with a combined membership of at least 5 million citizens. It also counts on the support of over 150 associate public authorities and corporations and more than 1 500 individual members. Its vast network of professionals and volunteers are committed to safeguarding Europe’s cultural heritage for present and future generations.

The 2013 award ceremony in Athens is part of Europa Nostra's annual European Heritage Congress. The deadline to apply for the next awards is 9 September 2013. Next year's ceremony is expected to take place in Vienna in May 2014.

Specialist juries made up of independent experts from across Europe assess the nominated projects in four award categories - conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising. All the winners receive a plaque or trophy. The six grand prix winners also receive €10,000 each.

The awards are supported by the EU Culture Programme, which has invested more than €32 million in co-financing heritage-related projects since 2007. Other EU programmes also provide support: the European Regional Development Fund has allocated €6 billion for culture in 2007-2013. Of this, €3 billion supports the protection and preservation of cultural heritage, €2.2 billion aids the development of cultural infrastructure and €775 million co-funds cultural services such as vocational training, arts and heritage education. A further €150 million has been made available through EU Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development since 1998.

Cultural heritage brings a significant – and often underrated – contribution to job creation and growth. The sector represents a significant part of the cultural and creative sectors, which provide jobs for around 8 million people in the EU and contribute up to 4.5% to Europe's GDP. Spending on conservation of cultural heritage by public and private bodies in the EU is worth an estimated €5 billion a year. Figures published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that 40% of worldwide tourism has a cultural dimension. Cultural heritage is also a key resource for sustainable development and social cohesion. www.europanostra.org

4. The award-winning restoration Strawberry Hill is one of the best documented houses in the country. Not only did Walpole leave a Description of Strawberry Hill (1784) but he also described it in numerous letters to his friends and commissioned a set of drawings from John Carter and paintings by Heinrich Muntz, among others, to record its changing appearance. Specialist paint and fabric analysis in the house itself has revealed further evidence and it was very exciting to uncover large areas of gothic trompe l’oeil decoration on the stairs and landing dating from the 1750s and the 1790s.

Every aspect of the restoration has been informed by in depth research which was initiated in 2004 by Kevin Rogers at the World Monuments Fund, Britain and continued with the conservation architects, Peter Inskip & Stephen Gee who, with Michael Snodin, Chairman of the Strawberry Hill Trust are leading the project. Mark Laird, Harvard University is leading the historic analysis of the Garden.

Strawberry Hill – Walpole’s Villa – has 25 show rooms on the ground and 1st floors, 20 of which were fully restored by E Bowman and Sons and a team of specialist conservationists. The roof has been extensively repaired with new lead work and re-slated with Westmoreland slate. New services have been installed throughout and under-floor heating introduced on the ground floor and a number of first floor areas. The old exterior cementitious render has been removed and replaced with a new lime ‘harling’ (a lime + pebble stucco render) specified to match the progression of finishes installed during the development of the house; lime washed to restore Strawberry Hill to its original ‘wedding cake’ appearance. The carved oak pinnacles have been reinstated on the roof and the 19th century chimney pots stabilised and repaired. The castellated parapets have been restored to their original proportions.

In the course of the works, the South East Tower (Great Tower) was found to be poorly repaired in the past and badly damaged and suffering from dry and wet rot. It was carefully dismantled and rebuilt using the original wooden frame wherever possible and employing the same structural design as the original.

The huge collection of painted renaissance glass has been conserved and re-ordered under the direction of Inskip + Jenkins by Chapel Studios according to Walpole’s original lay-out.

The core of the garden is also being restored, as far as possible, to its original 18th century design with the Open Grove of lime trees being reinstated as well as the Priors Garden and shell bench. The planting will be carried out in Autumn 2010.

In general the restoration works were formulated to take the House back to the 1790s at the time of Walpole’s death so that his progressive development in Strawberry Hill can be understood. A fully equipped Education Centre has been created with a room for practical work and a room in the base of the Round Tower for seminars and discussions.