Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill: Masterpieces from Horace Walpole’s Collection, Strawberry Hill, 268 Waldegrave Road, Twickenham TW1 4ST, until 24th February, 2019


Anonymous artist, Staircase at Strawberry Hill, Ink wash with watercolour. Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

The 2010 exhibition ‘Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill’ at the V&A was a wonderful celebration of the house, the collection and the collector so now imagine just quite how special this new exhibition is. You can feel the house responding to having over one hundred and fifty of its treasures within its walls once more with some in their original position.

From the early 18th century Chinese tub in which Walpole’s cat Selima drowned accidentally to a clock that had belonged to Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn, it is a veritable pot-pourri of objects and pictures that fascinate and show the breadth of Walpole’s interests, many reflecting the historic style of the building.


Paul Sandby (1731 – 1809) ‘Strawberry Hill chiefly taken in the year 1769 by Mr. Sandby’, c. 1769. Drawing Watercolour on laid paper with wash-line Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Son of Sir Robert Walpole (Britain’s first Prime Minister), Horace created this first Gothick building with the help of friends. It was his summer home until he died in 1797 and eventually in 1842 there was a twenty-four day sale of its contents. Now YOU can see some of these original contents, back home until February of next year, in both the private rooms and the State rooms. By 1797 there were some four thousand pieces plus coins, drawings and prints in the collection

I am deliberately not illustrating any of the objects on show because I think it is so, so important that, if you can, you should see them in situ and thus hopefully get a sense of both Horace and his remarkable creation. I implore you to do so! You will regret it if you don’t. The stuff of dreams.


John Carter, The Tribune at Strawberry Hill, c. 1789. Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.


Open 7 days a week

Monday – Friday: 12-6pm (Late opening until 10pm on Fridays)

Saturday – Sunday: 11am -6pm 

Final entry one hour before closing

Private guided tours available 10am-11am and 6pm, Monday to Friday

Public guided tours available 10am Saturday & Sunday




BOOK REVIEW: Robert Adam’s London

Robert Adam’s London

Frances Sands



Printed ISBN 9781784914622.

Epublication ISBN 9781784914639. 

This book is a delight and has wide appeal for devotees of Robert Adam’s architecture and interiors and lovers of London. Written by Dr Frances Sands (Curator of Drawings and Books at Sir John Soane’s Museum) to mark the exhibition held earlier there at the turn of the year it is a very much stand-alone volume too.  The starting point is Richard Horwood’s map of London (1792-99) and through this each of Adam’s projects can be discovered. It takes us on a fascinating stroll through the areas of London, both north and south of the river, where Adam worked and reveals that some buildings and interiors survive albeit much altered but certainly more than I had expected while others totally lost. So whether in the comfort of an armchair or in hand while searching the streets where Adam worked it is very much a book to savour and enjoy.


Tall buildings not wanted in Westminster!!

A West End Labour survey has today found that residents overwhelmingly oppose plans to build more tall buildings in Westminster. More than 80% of respondents believe that Westminster Council is wrong to want to develop more skyscrapers and tall buildings. Residents cited the following concerns: Tall buildings and skyscrapers pose a threat to Westminster’s unique character. Tall buildings block out light; block out historic views and […]

via Revealed: 80% of West End residents oppose Westminster Council plans to build tall buildings — labourwestminster

Zaha Hadid at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery

Zaha Hadid – Early Paintings and Drawings, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, West Carriage Drive, Kensington Gardens, London W2, until 12th February 2017

Zaha Hadid, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (8 December 2016 – 12 February 2017) © Zaha Hadid Foundation. Image © 2016 Hugo Glendinning

Zaha Hadid, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (8 December 2016 – 12 February 2017)
© Zaha Hadid Foundation. Image © 2016 Hugo Glendinning

It is totally appropriate that this exhibition should be held in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery because the firm of the late, celebrated architect Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) was involved in the renovation and extension of the gallery space.  These early works by Hadid show how important drawing was in creating and depicting her designs and ideas.

Zaha Hadid, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (8 December 2016 – 12 February 2017) © Zaha Hadid Foundation. Image © 2016 Luke Hayes

Zaha Hadid, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (8 December 2016 – 12 February 2017)
© Zaha Hadid Foundation. Image © 2016 Luke Hayes

Her words of 2007 sum up her approach: “I have always been interested in the concept of fragmentation and with ideas of abstraction and explosion, de-constructing ideas of repetitiveness and mass production. My work first engaged with the early Russian avant-garde; in particular with the work of Kasimir Malevich – he was an early influence for me as a representative of the modern avant-garde intersection between art and design. Malevich discovered abstraction as an experimental principle that can propel creative work to previously unheard levels of invention; this abstract work allowed much greater levels of creativity.”

Zaha Hadid, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (8 December 2016 – 12 February 2017) © Zaha Hadid Foundation. Image © 2016 Hugo Glendinning

Zaha Hadid, Installation view, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (8 December 2016 – 12 February 2017)
© Zaha Hadid Foundation. Image © 2016 Hugo Glendinning

The show is supported by Swarovski and one of their board members, Nadja Swarovski, sums up their involvement: “We are pleased to be supporting the Serpentine Galleries for this exhibition. Swarovski was honoured to collaborate with Zaha for over a decade, creating an incredible body of work which ranged from lighting installations to sculpture, jewellery and home decor. Her vision always pushed us outside our comfort zone, and the results were breathtaking. I feel extremely privileged to have known her both as a friend and as a creative collaborator.”



BOOK REVIEW: Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats

Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats

Written by James Reginato, Foreword by Viscount Linley, Photographed by Jonathan Becker
Publisher: Rizzoli
ISBN: 978-0-8478-4898-0


The doors of some of the beautiful great homes of the UK and Ireland are opened in this book which celebrates both their history and the lives of the present day occupiers.  It celebrates great houses such as Blenheim Palace, Broughton Castle, Haddon Hall and smaller ones such as the Old Vicarage in Edensor which was the final home of the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.  We even visit the late 3rd Baron Glenconner’s homes on Mustique and St. Lucia and the Earl of Durham in Tuscany. The book is beautifully illustrated with some interiors revealed for the first time.  An absolute must have for those interested in history, interior design and people.




BOOK REVIEW: London Uncovered

London Uncovered: Sixty Unusual Places to Explore

Mark Daly (Author), Peter Dazeley (Photographer)
Publisher: Frances Lincoln


 This is a book for anyone who loves London as it takes us into sixty buildings and places which we may recognise but are probably ones that we may not have visited so far. Dazeley’s photography reveals the interiors of these intriguing spaces while Daley’s text gives the history and feel of the place.  A great combination and thanks to this book I now have many places to visit in the coming months and years which I feel sure I will want to return to.


The book’s sections are Historical Homes, Food and Drink, Palaces of Entertainment, Places of Worship, Remarkable Shops, Science and Education, Inns of Court and Unusual Museums.  What more could you ask for?




I thought I would share this press release with you:




27 St James’s Place, London SW1

Sunday 16th October 2016, 10.30am-5.30pm


This special Craftsmen Day gives visitors an opportunity to meet conservators, decorators and designers employed during one of the most remarkable restoration projects of the last century.

 On site to explain and demonstrate the techniques and materials will be:

  • Ben Bacon who carved copies of the original suites of furniture designed by Vardy and Stuart.
  • Alan Dodd the artist who recreated the trompe l’oeil effect on the staircase balustrade.
  • Peter Hare & Paul Humphreys of Hare & Humphreys responsible for architectural gilding of the fine rooms and restoration of the decorative plasterwork.
  • David Mlinaric who oversaw for the interior decoration of the State Rooms.
  • Dick Reid who carried out architectural carving, including the doorcases, and the elaborate marble copies of original chimney pieces.
  • Peter Schade who, with Ben Bacon, carved the large frames for the Cipriani and Hamilton paintings in the Great Room, copied from original Stuart frames at Althorp.
  • Peter Thuring, who gilded the copies of the original furniture, and conserved and reupholstered Stuart’s original suite of furniture in the Painted Room, on loan from the V&A.
  • David Wilkinson of Wilkinson plc who produced five Adam-style glass chandeliers.


Sunday 16th Oct, 10.30am-5.30pm (last entry 4.30pm)
Advance booking recommended, online at www.spencerhouse.co.uk or  020 7067 1958
Adults £14, concessions £12

Capability Brown

Capability Brown at Compton Verney


(C) Stuart Thomas

(C) Stuart Thomas

This year marks the the 300th anniversary of the birth of the truly great English gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and it is being marked by many events in the wonderful landscapes he created for his patrons around the country. It is fitting for me to begin my occasional coverage with Compton Verney where an important restoration project is taking place, thanks to a £2.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund Grant.



Brown would say to prospective clients when viewing their estates that the place had “capabilities” – thus earning his soubriquet.  By moving hills, damming rivers to create lakes, and planting trees he literally remade the gardens into what is now celebrated as the quintessential idyllic English landscape. Among the features Brown introduced at Compton Verney were the ice house and a new chapel to replace the old one he had pulled down as it spoilt the view.

West Lawn Cedar DJ 2008

West Lawn Cedar
DJ 2008


Ice house © 2013 John Cleary Photography

Ice house
© 2013 John Cleary Photography






Given the amount of the new and proposed tall buildings that will be pricking London’s skyline I thought some of you would be interested in this update from


Petitioning nbarrett@westminster.gov.uk 


SKYLINE CAMPAIGN London, United Kingdom



Petition update


London, United Kingdom

12 Apr 2016 — Very unfortunately, following an extremely well-argued case for refusal by Cllr Caplan, Councillors Davis, Mitchell and Burbridge decided to disregard WCC’s own policy on the basis that, supposedly, the scheme delivers more significant benefits than it causes harm.

Their arguments were less than persuasive and disingenuous to say the least, but there was clearly a desire to gloss over principles and truths about this scheme in order to wave it through.

It is a dark hour for Westminster and for London, in terms of its built environment, its legacy to future generations, and its democratic decision-making process.

The Skyline Campaign and other opposition groups are considering their next moves.

Thank you all for your great support. We were told that the Council had never before received such a high number of objections for a planning application!


I am sure many Londoners, especially Westminster residents, will be very disappointed in this decision by WCC (Westminster City Council).


Another WCC planning decision that has caused controversy can be found on the website of the Victorian Society (http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/news/damaging-scheme-for-londons-first-great-department-store-approved/).  Here is a brief extract but please do visit their website:

Westminster Council’s decision to approve a damaging scheme for Whiteleys, London’s ‘first great department store’, will leave this part of West London architecturally poorer. The proposed roof extension would be highly visible and harm the Queensway Conservation Area.

These are worrying decisions by WCC who have charge of such an historic area of London.  One can understand why there is such concern from residents and others working in the area at such planning choices. Perhaps time for WCC to listen??

How Architecture Rebuilds Communities

Creation From Catastrophe – How Architecture Rebuilds Communities, The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1, until 24th April 2016

Sir Christopher Wren's Plan for Rebuilding the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666 (c) RIBA Collections

Sir Christopher Wren’s Plan for Rebuilding the City of London after the Great Fire of 1666
(c) RIBA Collections

This is an engaging study of how architects and designers have looked at bringing a new harmony and way forward after catastrophic disasters, natural or man-made, to existing cities and communities over the centuries.  Appropriately it starts with the plans to rebuild London after the Great Fire of 1666 and then via 18th century Lisbon and 19th century Chicago to the 20th and 21st centuries in Japan, Macedonia, Chile, Pakistan, Nigeria, Nepal and the USA.

Post Chicago fire, high rise - Reliance Building by Atwood, Burnham & Co, North State Street, Chicago 1890-95 (c) RIBA Collections

Post Chicago fire, high rise – Reliance Building by Atwood, Burnham & Co, North State Street, Chicago 1890-95
(c) RIBA Collections

What is remarkable is how the communities that survive such catastrophes come together to build a new and hopefully more stable future life.

Design for water communities, Lagos, Nigeria by NLÉ (c) NLÉ

Design for water communities, Lagos, Nigeria by NLÉ
(c) NLÉ