Nicola here. Back in the mid-18th century there was only one fashionable place to be if you wanted a “villa” on the River Thames (a villa in these terms being something roughly the size of a large country house to the rest of us.) That place was Twickenham, a village half-way between the two royal palaces of Richmond and Hampton Court and with the improvements in both roads and carriages, a mere two hours’ drive from Central London. It was here in 1747 that Horace Walpole, the son of England’s first Prime Minister, bought a house that he referred to as a “plaything” and a “bauble” that was to be his summer residence, Strawberry Hill House. Even the name suggests hot summer days and fruit growing wild on the hillsides!
These days Twickenham is a busy suburb and it takes less than an hour to drive between the town and the centre of London. Gone are many of the imposing villas beside the Thames, although a few are still around, and the old houses are often surrounded by the new. Horace Walpole’s little Gothic Castle is still there, though, even if we didn’t see any wild strawberries growing on the hill during our visit.