Strawberry Hill, Richmond upon Thames
A riverside locality situated between Twickenham and Teddington, centred on one of London’s most sumptuous mansions
In 1698 the Earl of Bradford’s retired coachman built or bought a house here, which was acquired in 1747 by the politician and man of letters Horace Walpole. He renamed the house Strawberry Hill, after a field in the grounds. Strawberries are known to have been grown in the area before this time and commercial fruit gardens were later established nearby. Like Hampton Hill and Marble Hill, there is no real hill here, merely a slight elevation of the terrain.
Walpole spent much of his life adding extra rooms and features to the ‘little cottage’, creating a Gothic fantasy that became famous throughout Europe, set in a nine-acre landscaped garden. After Walpole’s death in 1797 the property passed to his relatives, the Waldegrave family. Frances, widow of the seventh Earl of Waldegrave, added a new wing of her own design in 1862. In the following year the railway passed to the west of the house but it was ten years before a station opened in Strawberry Hill.
Some have suggested that the station was built at the behest of the countess, for the convenience of her house guests, but it is more probable that property speculators pressurised the railway company into providing the facility.
One of these developers was Chichester Fortescue, Frances’s fourth husband, who laid out streets of villas on the edge of the family estate.
Housebuilding continued to fill out the area into the early 20th century.
St Mary’s College (now St Mary’s University) moved from Brook Green to Strawberry Hill in 1925, and the mansion was further extended. Much of the building has recently been restored and the process will continue for a while yet. It is open for public viewings but advance booking is advisable.