Thank you to the knowledgeable guides and kind receptionists at Strawberry Hill who helped me on my visits there. Photographs by the author. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly and educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL, or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
The Gallery was the highlight of Horace Walpole's new "state apartment" in the west wing of Strawberry Hill, where he could entertain his many guests in a style that the older, smaller rooms did not allow, and of course also show off the largest and most impressive of his paintings. To its dazzling combination of fan-vaulting, recesses "finished with a gold network overlooking glass," and hangings of "crimson Norwich damask" (Walpole 19), were added representations of the various elements of the family arms at the top of the tall windows — all five of them, ranged along this part of the south façade. These were commissioned from William Peckitt (c.1731-95) in 1761, and calculated to demonstrate Walpole's long and noble family past. Here was yet another example of how his "antiquarian interest" was "supplemented by genealogical pride" (Ford 39). The Gallery was completed in 1763.
Imbued as he was with that kind of pride, Walpole made the decoration of this side a vital element of the whole effect. The main point of his "revived Gothic" was to suggest "not a house built over fifty years but an ancient seat, developed and extended over generations" (Rogers 63), and part of the impression was to come from displaying "all the quarterings of the family" (Walpole 19) in this key space, against a background of what the sale catalogue of 1842 calls "a variety of fine old mosaic glass" (Robins 242). The window above, for example, shows Walpole's coat of arms ("two chevrons sable on a red field with a bar across the centre featuring three crosses" [Ford 39]); the Saracen's head that pops up here and there throughout the house and associates the family with the Crusades; and a griffin, which associates it with the Knights of the Garter and the Tudors. The griffin is also found elsewhere: a gilded one crowns the first post of the external staircase at the south-west corner of the house. Walpole was particularly interested in establishing a genealogical link with the de Vere Earls of Oxford, whose arms include the griffin (see Ford 38).
Splendid as it is today, the Gallery is not quite as it once was. The windows needed to be taken back to their original heights during the recent restoration ("About the House"), and this painted glass has been part of the painstaking process of replicating, or restoring and resetting, much if not all of the Strawberry Hill glass, a process which is continuing even now — the Holbein Chamber has some beautiful painted glass, removed for such work at the time of writing. In fact, the Gallery glass has had to be "recreated ... from contemporary descriptions and watercolours" (Peover 5). Also, the impression of a long and proud history would have been stronger when the spaces between the windows were "dominated by Jacobean full-length portraits," as they were originally (Snodin 48). Yet the various uses of such domestic glass — aesthetic, genealogical and historical — are still very apparent. When Lady Waldegrave made her own alterations and extensions in the Victorian period, she followed Walpole's example and added some of her own heraldic designs to the bay windows of the Round Room at the end of the Gallery, no doubt with the same effects in view.
Carrying through the heraldic theme, the gilded griffin graces the external staircase in the south-west corner of Strawberry Hill.
More Stained Glass at Strawberry Hill
- The Little Parlour and Adjacent Rooms
- The Great Parlour or Refectory
- The Blue Bedchamber
- The Library
- The Star Chamber
- The Round Drawing-Room
"Strawberry Hill: About the House: The Gallery." Strawberry Hill House. Web. 4 September 2014.
Ford, Lisa. "Heraldry." Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill. Ed. Michael Snodin, assisted by Cynthia Roman. New Haven and London: The Lewis Walpole Library and others, in association with Yale University Press, 2009. 38-39.
Peover, Michael. Strawberry Hill: Renaissance Glass. London: Scala, 2010.
Robins, George. A Catalogue of the Classic Contents of Strawberry Hill Collected by Horace Walpole (auction catalogue). Internet Archive. Contributed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library. Web. 4 September 2014.
Rogers, Kevin. "Walpole's Gothic: Creating a Fictive History." Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill. Ed. Michael Snodin, assisted by Cynthia Roman. New Haven and London: The Lewis Walpole Library and others, in association with Yale University Press, 2009. 59-73.
Snodin, Michael. "Going to Strawberry Hill." Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill. Ed. Michael Snodin, assisted by Cynthia Roman. New Haven and London: The Lewis Walpole Library and others, in association with Yale University Press, 2009. 15-57.
Walpole, Horace. A Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole at Strawberry-Hill near Twickenham, Middlesex. Edited version in a booklet compiled and written by Carole Patey and published by the Strawberry Hill Trust, 2014. Available at the house.
Last modified 4 September 2014