Strawberry Hill, a historic house internationally recognised as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture, is being protected with thoroughly modern fire detection based on Apollo technology. The contract to supply and commission the fire detection system was awarded to Apollo’s long-term customer, Technical Alarm Systems Limited of Southampton, as part of the first phase of a £9 million restoration project.
Photo by Richard Spires, Friends of Strawberry Hill.
Strawberry Hill was created by Horace Walpole, the son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, from an original building dating back to 1698 and quickly became internationally famous. Walpole called his Gothic castle a ‘plaything house’, with his designs based on the architecture of the great gothic cathedrals and abbeys of the era. The fireplaces, windows, doors and ceilings of its 25 rooms are based upon the medieval tombs of saints and kings. During his tenure, the house became home to a vast collection of art, antiquities and curiosities that reflected Walpole’s social position and aspirations as an innovator of style.
The contents were sold off in 1842 and the house gradually fell into a state of disrepair; so much so that the World Monuments Fund included it among the 100 most endangered heritage sites of the world. In response the Strawberry Hill Trust was formed and, with restoration grants from both English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, they initiated its repair. The Grade I listed building reopened to the public in October 2010 after a two year restoration process.
Like any other public access building, Strawberry Hill needed a modern fire detection system to protect its fabric and contents, its visitors and staff. The fire system was designed by M&E consultants Martin Thomas Associates Limited and installed by contractor Multiserve. Technical Alarm Systems won the contract to supply and commission the fire system in competitive tender.
Apollo’s analogue addressable XP95 range was specified to meet the main fire protection requirements, with aspirating fire detectors used in some rooms to preserve the historic décor. XP95 isolating sounder bases were used to minimise the number of devices required and to provide staff and visitors with adequate warning in the event of an emergency. The fire system is configured around an Advanced Electronics MX4404 control panel and interfaces with other critical equipment.
The house became a tourist attraction during Walpole’s life-time, with many people trying for one of the four visitor tickets that Walpole allowed per day. Strawberry Hill is just as popular today, with public interest being so high that it was fully booked for the first couple of months after its reopening.