Letters Past and Present at Strawberry Hill House

The ‘Write to Horace’ campaign was designed to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the restoration of Strawberry Hill House and to engage with the local community during lockdown, culminating in the ‘Lockdown Letters to Horace: An Art Installation’.

Horace Walpole, man of letters, was a prolific writer, starting at the age of seven and continuing this  passion well into his 70s. He wrote over 7000 letters during his lifetime, as well as the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto and an account of his collection, A Description of the Villa. He even had a private printing press built in the grounds of Strawberry Hill House, the first in England. Walpole’s letters describe the people he met, his local community and his thoughts about the world. During this time of COVID-19, keeping in contact has become even more important and the humble letter has seen a resurgence, as individuals have sought to keep in touch in a more personal way.

This project has inspired people of all ages to ‘Write to Horace’ to share their own stories of how local communities have supported each other during lockdown. These stories, contained in 250 letters, have served as a snapshot of the local area during the decidedly strange times of 2020.  

Now Strawberry Hill House is open, visitors will have the opportunity to reflect on the letters via a multimedia installation designed by three artists and funded with the generous support of the Arts Council Emergency Response Package. 

The selected artists have curated a series of responses to the letters submitted for ‘Write to Horace’, using film, sound and an installation which spans the House. The artworks seek to explore contradictions, as the letters  submitted by the public are both highly individual and at the same time speak loudly of a collective experience. In addition, the disconnect between the sensory aspects of writing and receiving letters is contrasted with the digital delivery of handwritten letters necessitated by lockdown conditions.

The Artists

Charmaine Stimson, Judith North, and Kate Proudman are artists who live and work locally. They studied Fine Art together at the John Cass School of Art in London and are co-founders of One Paved Court gallery, an artist-led space in Richmond.

Lockdown Letters to Horace: An Art Installation

Curated by Charmaine Stimson, Judith North, and Kate Proudman

5 November 2020 – 5 January 2021

Sunday – Thursday, 11am – 4pm

Please Book in advance, opening times may alter over Christmas and New Year.


Image credit: George Perfect Harding, Horace Walpole in His Library. Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

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