The Strawberry Hill Press

This is part of a local history note on Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill. See the start of this local history note.

In 1757, Walpole built the Printing House in the grounds. In September 1759 he wrote to the Earl of Strafford “…I have begun to build a new printing-house, that the old one may make room for the Gallery and Round Tower.” It was finished at the end of October when he wrote again to Strafford “My new printing-house is finished, in order to pull down the old one, and lay the foundations next summer of my round tower.” It was in use by the end of the following May. Although it possessed no Gothic features, it was probably the most important building as it was the headquarters of Walpole’s private press, “the Offinia Arbuteana or the Strawberry Hill Press.” The first book issued from the press was an edition of the Odes of Thomas Gray (1757), Walpole’s old schoolfriend. Amongst Walpole’s own works printed here were the Mysterious Mother (1768), a blank-verse drama, and the Essay on Modern Gardening (1785). A work particularly important for its documentary value was issued from the press in 1774. This was Walpole’s Description of the Villa of Mr Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill near Twickenham, with an inventory of the furniture, pictures, curiosities etc. The Description …was subsequently revised and reprinted in 1784, accompanied by engravings.

In circa1758, Walpole wrote the somewhat facetious Parish Register of Twickenham, a list, in octosyllables, of the local notables. The full text can be read in his Letters, volume 42, pp. 488-90. At the end of the piece Walpole wrote:

“…enough if I consign To lasting type their notes divine:Enough if Strawberry’s humble hill The title page of fame shall fill.”

In the celebrated “Gothick romance” The Castle of Otranto (1764), the author endeavoured to combine supernatural machinery and everyday characters in a work could be described as the first example of a genre which still persists in various forms today.

Walpole printed just 6 copies of Hieroglyphic Tales in 1785 , a collection of nonsense tales containing allusions to friends, their houses and families.

Updated: 11 May 2018