Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit Horace Walpole’s Gothic revival mansion, Strawberry Hill. This awe-inspiring house was painstakingly built with an eye to detail unmatched by many homes. His attention to detail in order to evoke emotions from his visitors is obvious and something I myself experienced while touring the manor.
Walpole is credited as the first Gothic novelist, and his novel was written at Strawberry Hill. After touring the house, I can definitely see how he could write a Gothic novel based on his surroundings. Walpole included many Gothic elements in his home. From castle-like turrets and spires to a dark entryway and design that makes the viewer look up, Walpole’s Gothic revival mansion checked off many Gothic elements. However, the element that stood out most to me were the windows. The windows in the house were designed specifically to create different patterns throughout the day. He made the stained-glass portions with pictures at the top, so as not to obstruct his view. When the sunlight pours in just right, different areas of the room are bathed in differing intensities of light, depending on the time of day and season. This eerie anomaly creates a sense of wonder for the viewer. It is also his way of experimenting with “gloomth,” or mixing gloom with warmth.
Throughout the house, I was filled with a sense of wonder, but also something a bit like discomfort. Though the house is magnificent, it is also intimidating and a little creepy. The darkness of the house gave me a bit of unease, and there was a feeling that I might find something I didn’t want to hiding around a corner or waiting for me in the shadows.