Horace Walpole, a son of the politician Robert Walpole, rented the cottage in 1717 and subsequently purchased it. He began to enlarge the house and added to the land, which now amounts approximately 35 acres.
Walpole did not follow the eighteenth-century fashion of classical building, but sought his inspiration in medieval styles. Some of his contemporaries imitated his design and so this house and the idea it embodied take their place in the history of architecture as Strawberry Hill Gothic.
The house subsequently became known as Strawberry Hill House, and is known colloquially as Walpole House.
It was founded in 1850 by the Catholic Poor Schools Committee to meet the need for teachers to provide an education for the growing numbers of poor Catholic children.
It started in Brook Green in Hammersmith in the charge of the Brothers of Christian Instruction with an intake of six young men. In 1899, the Catholic Hierarchy asked the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians) to undertake the administration of the College.
At Brook Green the College abutted onto Cadby Hall, the headquarters of the caterers, J Lyons & Company, and, at this time, Lyons also wanted to expand. They had money and St Mary's had land.
The successful conclusion of negotiations on this happy juxtaposition enabled St Mary's to purchase Strawberry Hill and build living accommodation and classrooms for about 250 students. The College at Strawberry Hill was officially opened in 1925. Since then, the campus buildings have been enlarged to meet the needs of around 4,000 students.
The past fifty years have seen dramatic changes in the social life of the country and in the official provision of educational facilities for all able to take advantage of them up to university level.
St Mary's University College has reflected these changes in the way of life of the students and women were first admitted in 1966.
Another significant development earlier in the 1960s was the construction of a new chapel – based on designs by Sir Albert Richardson – in the centre of the campus in 1962-63.
Whilst the college was primarily concerned with teacher training up to 1975, courses leading to the University of London BA and BSc external degrees had been offered from 1920. In 1967 it became possible to stay for a fourth year to convert the Teacher's Certificate into a BEd degree.
The first students for the then new London University BA, BEd, BH and BSc unit degrees entered in 1975. These degrees marked a new phase in the life of the College as it diversified its portfolio and introduced masters and expanded its non teaching degrees.
A policy decision was taken in 1979 whereby the College changed its validation from the University of London to the University of Surrey. Our first students to gain qualifications under the University of Surrey received their diplomas in 1983 but, with effect from September 1983, all students registered with the University of Surrey.
In July 1986, our first graduates from the University of Surrey received their degrees in Guildford Cathedral. The College's degree conferment ceremonies are now held in either the College Chapel or Westminster Cathedral. BEd degree has been changed to BA in 1988 and In the autumn of 1994, new single subject BA degrees were introduced.
A policy decision was taken in 1979 whereby the College changed its validation from the University of London to the University of Surrey.
Our first students to gain qualifications under the University of Surrey received their diplomas in 1983 but, with effect from September 1983, all students registered with the University of Surrey.
In July 1986, our first graduates from the University of Surrey received their degrees in Guildford Cathedral. The University College's degree conferment ceremonies are now held in either the University College Chapel or Westminster Cathedral.
The relationship with the University of Surrey developed progressively. The Senate and Council of the University of Surrey accorded us 'Affiliated College Status' in 1990 and from that year all undergraduate students have been recruited through UCCA (now UCAS).
In 1992 the College was accorded 'College of the University of Surrey' status and in the same year a lay Principal was appointed for the first time.
From September 1996 taught degree programmes were accredited by the University of Surrey. In 1999 St Mary's acquired 30 acres of land at Teddington Lock to be used as additional playing fields for sport.
Following Privy Council approval, St Mary's College became St Mary's University College, and it can apply for full university status when it meets the criteria for this important stage. New students registering from September 2007 can look forward to graduating with a St Mary's University College degree.
Now only a third of our work is devoted to teacher education although there is a growing number of qualified teachers undertaking masters programmes as part of their continuing professional development.
The masters numbers are growing steadily with a wide range of programmes including sport, theatre directing and theology. Research student numbers are also increasing. At undergraduate level, we have a growing range of Foundation Degrees in addition to the single and joint honours BA and BSc programmes.
Since receiving its taught degree awarding powers, the University College has been approached by several organisations with a view to validating or franchising programmes and this is now a growing activity which is being carefully developed.
The University College's current estate is in four parts. The main campus is on Waldegrave Road in Twickenham, a hall of residence is located at 16 Strawberry Hill Road and the University College's main sports fields are on the Teddington Lock site opposite the Lensbury Club in Broom Road, Teddington.
Walpole House is a Grade I listed property and has been identified by many as a place in need of urgent assistance. It was featured on the BBC2 series 'Restoration' and was listed on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register.
It was also included in the 2004 World Monuments Fund Watch list of the world's 100 Most Endangered Sites. In 2002, the Strawberry Hill Trust was formed with a mission to restore Walpole House and open it to a wider public.
The Trust signed a 120 year lease with St Mary's and is now undertaking a £8.9 million project to restore Walpole’s villa and surrounding gardens. The House opened to the public in October 2010 and tours can be arranged through the Friends of Strawberry Hill.
The Waldegrave Wing, including the Waldegrave Drawing Room and Senior Common Room, continue to be used by the University College. Virtual tours featuring the Waldegrave Drawing Room interior, Strawberry Hill House and grounds, and several campus buildings and facilities can be on the Virtual Tours pages of this website.
Work began in May 2010 on the construction of a new sports facility providing an £8.5m asset for recreation, academic, elite and community sport. This facility was officially opened in October 2011.
On September 17th 2010, Pope Benedict XVI visited the campus as part of the first Papal Visit to the UK since 1982.
In July 2012, St Mary’s became a Pre-Games Training Camp for the London 2012 Olympics, with athletes from ten nations selecting St Mary’s for their final preparations: South Africa, China, Japan, Ireland, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Mozambique and Denmark.