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Not currently on display at the V&A

The Strawberry Room

Panelled Room
1783-1794 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This small room was located on the first floor of Lee Priory, a house originally built in the 17th century and decorated between 1783 and about 1790 when it was remodelled. This is a rare example of a room decorated in the Gothic Revival style of the 18th century. It was called the Strawberry Room. The house was altered again in the 19th century and the architectural parts of the room were given to the Museum when the house was demolished in 1953.

People
Horace Walpole influenced the style of the room as he was a friend of the owner, Thomas Barrett. Walpole had already altered his own house at Strawberry Hill near London in the Gothic style and he wrote about Lee Priory, 'You will see a child of Strawberry prettier than the parent...There is a delicious closet, too, so flattering to me'.

Design & Designing
The room's architect, James Wyatt, was adventurous and eccentric and excelled at the Gothic style so admired during this period. Wyatt designed the ceiling with applied wooden tracery in imitation of stone fan-vaulting seen in Medieval churches, and shaped the mantelpiece like a Gothic arch. The woodwork was painted a pale stone colour. Originally, there was a window at the end opposite the cupboards.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 15 parts.
(Some alternative part names are also shown below)
  • Panelled Room
  • Wallpaper Fragment
  • Keys
  • Crate
  • Components
  • Door
  • Bookcase
  • Cornice
  • Door
  • Components
  • Archway
  • Panel
  • Moulding
  • Moulding
  • Moulding
  • Moulding
  • Skirting Board
Materials and Techniques
Pine, carved, painted and gilded; cupboards inset with coloured glass panes
Brief Description
Lee Priory room
Dimensions
  • Height: 275cm
  • Width: 221cm
  • Depth: 572cm
Gallery Label
  • THE LEE PRIORY ROOM ENGLISH; about 1785 Painted pinewood This room formed the entrance to the Library at Lee Priory, Kent, and has fitted shelves behind the glass-fronted doors. Designed by James Wyatt for Thomas Barrett, a close friend of Horace Walpole who owned Strawberry Hill, Twickenham (built 1748-77). Walpole much admired this Gothick essay which he called "my Gothic child", and wrote enthusiastically in 1790 to Miss Mary Berry: "I found Mr. Barrett's house complete, and the most perfect thing ever formed! Such taste, every inch so well finished….. I think if Strawberry were not its parent it would be jealous."(pre October 2000)
  • British Galleries: This small room was a 'closet' or study, designed for Thomas Barrett (1744-1803). He was a keen collector and antiquarian who remodelled his house in the Gothic style, inspired by his friend, the collector Horace Walpole (1717-1797) and his house, Strawberry Hill at Twickenham. The room is now furnished with ebony and lacquer furniture from Asia. In the 1780s such ebony furniture was wrongly thought to be British and to date from the 16th century.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Given by Thomas Oakley and G. Jackson & Sons Ltd
Object history
Designed by James Wyatt (born in Weeford Staffordshire, 1746, died near Marlborough, Wiltshire, 1813); made by an unidentifed carver



Text from Gallery Book:



Thomas Barrett and Lee Priory



Thomas Barrett (1744–1803) inherited Lee Priory, at Littlebourne, near Canterbury, in 1757. His father had been a collector of art and antiquities, including Elizabethan miniatures, but some of his collection was sold after his death. Thomas Barrett inherited his father’s artistic interests but carried the antiquarian enthusiasm further by remodelling his house in the Gothic style. After a short interlude as Member of Parliament for Dover, he retired from public life and devoted nearly twenty years to the rebuilding of Lee Priory, which was still incomplete at his death in 1803.



Barrett was a long-standing friend of the writer and collector Horace Walpole (1717–1797), and was inspired by his friend’s enthusiasm for the Gothic style. The two men corresponded over many years, and Walpole visited Lee Priory on more than one occasion. He saw it as the successor to his own house, Strawberry Hill, which he had remodelled in the Gothic style from the 1750s onwards, and was uncharacteristically generous in his praise of the remodelled building, declaring it ‘a child of Strawberry prettier than the parent’



Lee Priory



It may have been Walpole who introduced Barrett to the architect James Wyatt (1746–1813) in the early 1780s. Wyatt produced many designs for the remodelling of Lee Priory before his client settled on the Gothic style. Building started in 1783, and in the 1790s Walpole was able to write to his friend the religious writer Hannah More (1745-1833) enthusing about how work was progressing: ‘it is the quintessence of Gothic taste, exquisitely executed’. However, the remodelling was still unfinished at Barrett’s death in 1803.



Edward Hasted’s History of Kent, published while Lee Priory was being re-built, records that the appearance conveyed ‘an idea of a small convent … partly modernised, and adapted to the habitation of a gentleman’s family’. In keeping with Barrett’s antiquarian and bookish tastes, one of the largest rooms in the house was the octagonal library, supposedly modelled on the lantern at Ely Cathedral.



The house was remodelled and enlarged again in about 1865 by Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811–1878). The library and the Strawberry Room were untouched, however, apart from the addition of a second door, which was cut in the Strawberry Room to make a way through into newer areas of the house, and the replacement of the original window with a larger bay. The house was demolished in 1953, at which point this small room was given to the Museum.



The Strawberry Room



This small room was one of Thomas Barrett’s own rooms on the first floor, which included the most dramatic room in the house, the Gothic library. The Strawberry Room was probably used as a closet or study, and there are bookcases hidden behind the Gothic tracery at the end of the room. Thomas Barrett never married and so was free to arrange his house to suit his own scholarly tastes entirely.



The Strawberry Room represents a second phase in the revival of interest in Gothic architecture and decoration that had first become fashionable in Britain in the 1740s. Earlier attempts at reviving the Gothic style had frequently been little more than Rococo designs with pointed arches in place of the more typical curving ornament, foliage or shells, though a few architects had attempted a more correct revival of the style. By the 1780s, scholarly interest in authentic medieval forms and motifs was becoming more widespread. In 1776 the architect James Wyatt had been appointed Surveyor of Westminster Abbey, and so by the time he started work on Lee Priory his knowledge of Gothic was already substantial.



The room today



When the room was taken from Lee Priory, the bay window added by Sir George Gilbert Scott was not removed. The arch behind you is Scott’s work, with a modern alcove behind it. The door next to the fireplace, which offers a second exit, is based on the one added to the room by Scott.



The paint colour of the carved woodwork is based on analysis of the existing paintwork. No evidence survives for the decoration of the walls and so they have been hung with a ‘verditer paper’, a plain blue-green paper of a type that was popular in the 1780s. This particular paper was based on remnants found recently behind mirrors in the Great Drawing Room at Burton Constable in East Yorkshire. That room was also designed by James Wyatt and the paper had survived from the 1770s. The new paper has been made in the same way, with small sheets pasted together and painted with verditer, a form of coloured wash.



No evidence exists of how the room was furnished for Thomas Barrett , but a sale catalogue of 1834 records ebony furniture that may have been there in his day. Ebony and lacquer had been popular with antiquarian collectors since the 1740s and had been an important part of Horace Walpole’s furnishings of Strawberry Hill in the 1750s. Indeed, one of the chairs here once belonged to Walpole.



THE CARVED WOODWORK

1783-1794




We do not know exactly when this room was made because Thomas Barrett clearly enjoyed the process of enlarging his house and continued with it for the last twenty years of his life. It is likely that it was more or less complete when Horace Walpole visited in 1794. This small room, with its ‘stone’ vaulting carved entirely in pinewood, was designed to look like a medieval chantry or chapel in a cathedral or large church.



Pinewood, carved, painted and gilded; cupboards inset with coloured glass panes

Designed by James Wyatt, born in Weeford, Staffordshire, 1746, died near Marlborough, Wiltshire, 1813); made by an unidentifed carver

Given by Thomas Oakley and G. Jackson & Sons Ltd

Museum no. W.48-1953





Furnishings shown in the room from 2001:



CARPET

1700-1800

So-called 'Persian' carpets, mostly made in Turkey, had been imported into Britain since the 17th century. Throughout the 18th century they were prized for their intricate designs and glowing colours. This one is of unusual design, and so far the exact area in which it was made has not been identified.

Hand knotted woollen pile on woollen warp and weft

Woven in Turkey

Museum no. T.103-1913



CHAIR

1660 - 1680

In the late 18th century Indian chairs of this type were thought to be British survivals from the 16th century. Horace Walpole, who first saw such chairs at Esher Palace, near London, had started this myth. He believed that the chairs at Esher Palace had belonged to Cardinal Wolsey (1473-1530), who had lived at Esher. This chair may have belonged to Walpole himself, bought to furnish his own Gothic house in what he considered a suitable style.

Ebony, carved and pierced, with caned seat

Made on the Coromandel Coast, south-east India, by an unknown chairmaker and carver

Possibly once in the collection of Horace Walpole (born in London, 1717, died there in 1797), at Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, near London

Given by Robert Skelton, OBE

Museum no. IS.6-2000



CHAIR

1680-1700

Following the example set by Horace Walpole (1717-1797), many collectors bought such chairs. This chair is slightly later in date than the other one shown here, as indicated by the less densely carved top rail and seat rail. In the 19th century it belonged to Alexander Hamilton, 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767-1852). Although he bought similar chairs himself, it is possible that he inherited this one from his father-in-law, the collector William Beckford (1760-1844).

Ebony, carved and turned; the caned drop-in seat has new caning

Made on the Coromandel coast, south-east India, by an unknown chairmaker and carver

Museum no. 413-1882



CABINET ON STAND

About 1630; stand possibly 1680-1700

Many antiquarian collectors in the 18th century, including Horace Walpole (1717-1797) were passionate collectors of Japanese lacquer. They saw nothing odd in showing it alongside old oak or stained glass and admired it for its fine workmanship and elegant design. To their eyes it also went naturally with the Indian ebony furnishings that they mistook for ancient British furniture.

Cabinet of lacquer on wood; stand of painted pine

Cabinet made in Japan; stand probably made in The Netherlands

Museum no. FE.38-1978



PAIR OF FRAMED ENGRAVINGS, from Horace Walpole's collection

Horace Walpole owned copies of these two engravings and possibly these very ones. They were listed amongst the contents of Strawberry Hill when it was sold in 1842. The engravings are based on stained glass windows at All Souls College, Oxford, showing the founder, Archbishop Henry Chicheley (died 1443) and the patron, Henry VI (1421-1472).

Published in London.

Sold in the auction of the contents of Strawberry Hill, 1842

Henry Chichele, founder of All Souls College, Oxford

Dated 1772; frame 1773-1780

Etching and engraving, ink on paper, in an 18th-century ebonised and gilded frame

Drawn by John Taylor (born in London 1739, died there in 1838); engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi (born in Florence, Italy, 1721, died in Lisbon, 1815)

Museum no. W.97-1978



Henry VI

Dated 1773; frame 1773-1780

Etching and engraving, ink on paper, in an 18th-century ebonised and gilded frame

Drawn by John Keyse Sherwin (born, probably in East Dean, [where?]1751, died in London, 1790)

Engraved by Francesco Bartolozzi (born in Florence, Italy, 1721, died in Lisbon, 1815)

Museum no. W.98-1978



Firms and individuals involved in the dismantling, re-erection and conservation of the room for redisplay in 2001:

Momart Ltd, London dismantling, moving and re-erection of the room

St Blaise Ltd, Evershot, Dorset new joinery

Weldon Flooring creation of new floors from 18th century timber

Hare & Humphries, London painting and gilding of woodwork

Allyson McDermott making and hanging of verditer paper

Summary
Object Type
This small room was located on the first floor of Lee Priory, a house originally built in the 17th century and decorated between 1783 and about 1790 when it was remodelled. This is a rare example of a room decorated in the Gothic Revival style of the 18th century. It was called the Strawberry Room. The house was altered again in the 19th century and the architectural parts of the room were given to the Museum when the house was demolished in 1953.

People
Horace Walpole influenced the style of the room as he was a friend of the owner, Thomas Barrett. Walpole had already altered his own house at Strawberry Hill near London in the Gothic style and he wrote about Lee Priory, 'You will see a child of Strawberry prettier than the parent...There is a delicious closet, too, so flattering to me'.

Design & Designing
The room's architect, James Wyatt, was adventurous and eccentric and excelled at the Gothic style so admired during this period. Wyatt designed the ceiling with applied wooden tracery in imitation of stone fan-vaulting seen in Medieval churches, and shaped the mantelpiece like a Gothic arch. The woodwork was painted a pale stone colour. Originally, there was a window at the end opposite the cupboards.
Bibliographic References
  • Reeve, Matthew M. and Lindfield, Peter, '"A Child of Strawberry": Thomas Barrett and Lee Priory, Kent'. Burlington Magazine CLVII, December 2015, pp. 836-842
  • Peter N. Lindfield, 'Rediscovering Lee Priory's Lost Ante-Library Ante-Chamber', The Georgian Group Journal, vol. XXV (2017), pp. 207-212.
Collection
Accession Number
W.48:1 to 3-1953

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record createdFebruary 23, 2001
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