The Unexpected Jewish Past of Strawberry Hill House

Strawberry Hill House is internationally known for its creator, the writer Horace Walpole (1717-1797), and for being one of the most distinctive and pioneering monuments of the British Neo Gothic. Little attention has been given in the past to the story of the house ‘after Walpole’.

As part of the Jewish Country Houses project, Strawberry Hill House curator, Silvia Davoli has researched two subsequent owners of the Villa from the 19th and 20th century, both of whom came from a Jewish background: Frances, Countess Waldegrave (1821-1879), whose father John Braham was an internationally famous Jewish opera singer; and Herbert Stern, 1st Baron Michelham (1851-1919), who belonged to a European Jewish dynasty of bankers. Both Lady Waldegrave and the Stern family left at Strawberry Hill tangible signs of their presence.

To celebrate the European Days of Jewish Culture 2021, the House has dedicated this online exhibition ‘The Unexpected Jewish Past of Strawberry Hill’ to these characters. The aim of this exhibition is to explore, through a selection of images and objects, those aspects of Jewish culture and sociability that, in an era of deepening integration, continued to characterise the lives of Lady Waldegrave and the Sterns. From this selection a new Strawberry Hill emerges: in the century after Horace Walpole’s death, his home was transformed into a stage-set for entertaining high society, exhibiting art and displaying cosmopolitan fashions. 

In particular, the exhibition explores the following themes: family ties, cosmopolitanism, art patronage, social status, religious identity, anti-Semitism and different forms of philanthropy.  

Visit the exhibition here

The development of 'The Unexpected Jewish Past of Strawberry Hill’ was supported by the University of Oxford's Heritage Seed Fund.  

Our collaboration with the Jewish Country Houses Project has led me to develop a more in-depth documentary research on Lady Waldegrave and the Sterns. With this exhibition my hope is to engage our visitors with a new exciting dimension of the history of the house, a story full of surprises and yet to be told!

Silvia Davoli, Curator