“Lady Waldegrave, whose Alfresco breakfasts are famous and fashionable...”

Lady Waldegrave

When Horace Walpole died in 1797, he left Strawberry Hill to his cousin’s daughter, the sculptress Anne Damer. In 1811 it passed to his great niece, Elizabeth Waldegrave. In 1839, her grandson, John, married the 18 year old Frances Braham, the daughter of a famous Irish opera singer, but he died within a year of the marriage. Frances then married his brother, the Seventh Earl Waldegrave, but within seven months of this marriage, he was sent to prison for ‘riotous behaviour’. When he was released he felt bitterly that, as it was the Twickenham Bench which had committed him, he would sell Walpole’s precious collection and let Strawberry Hill rot, as a reproach to the ingratitude of Twickenham. He arranged the Great Sale of 1842 which dispersed Walpole’s Collection. The Seventh Earl died in 1846 leaving Frances a substantial income and, although she subsequently married twice more, she kept the title Countess Waldegrave all her life.

It was in 1856, during her third marriage to Granville Harcourt, that she expanded and embellished Walpole’s gothic castle.  While she respected Walpole’s building and destroyed very little, she enlarged the Hall, changing its monastic appearance, and added an elegant new floor to the Gallery. Externally she created the horse-shoe entrance and pushed the main road back into its present position. 

Lady Waldegrave then built her grand Drawing Room, Dining Room, Billiard Room and further accommodation for guests and servants. She raised the Round Tower another storey and added ‘tudor’ chimney pots in the style of Hampton Court.

In 1863 she was married again, this time to Chichester Fortesque, who had served as a Liberal Minister under Palmerston and Gladstone.  Both were guests at Strawberry Hill as were the Prince and Princess of Wales and most of the Liberal establishment. Lady Waldegrave’s entertaining was famous: when she held a party contemporaries report traffic jams of coaches all the way from Twickenham Station!