‘Inconclusive Evidence’ is a study of letters, drawings, sketches, and paintings related to the villa Strawberry Hill, built in sections between 1747 and 1792, in Twickenham Middlesex outside London. The builder was Horace Walpole (1717-97), created 4th Earl of Orford in 1791. Walpole was not alone in his deed, however. To his assistance he assembled a ‘Committee of Taste’, amongst which John Chute (1701-76) was the longest lasting member. Chute was equally Walpole’s companion sharing a household with him at Strawberry Hill from 1747 to 1754, when Chute unexpectedly inherited his family seat The Vyne and moved to shortly after.
Strawberry Hill was built in an agglutinative process, first remodelling an already existing building, Chopped Straw Hall, and then developed further in two main expansion periods. The present study concentrates on the first ten years. This first period was ultimately a result of a communal effort deriving from the particular social demands an all male household required.
The research has included three strategic journeys: first following in the footsteps of members of the household, on a Grand Tour trough Italy, then a journey across Britain visiting country houses influential on the development of Strawberry Hill, and finally following the movement of existing fragments related to the Strawberry Hill household across the Atlantic Ocean to Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University U.S.A.
Each document in question is reproduced in the thesis, many of them for the first time. Each one has been given a presence in its own right, and thus remains uncompromised. The utilisation of illustrations to this extended degree is of crucial importance for the thesis’ argument, both in terms of methodological approach and rhetorics. Without their presence there would be no argument, in fact. In a poetic manner the signs - the documents - give each reader an opportunity to both follow the author’s analysis and conduct one of his or her own.