While the latter two are ducal palaces , Montacute, although built by a Master of the Rolls to Queen Elizabeth I, was occupied for the next years by his descendants, who were gentry without a London townhouse , rather than aristocracy. They finally ran out of funds in the early 20th century. However, the vast majority of the lesser-known English country houses, often owned at different times by gentlemen and peers , are an evolution of one or more styles with facades and wings in different styles in a mixture of high architecture, often as interpreted by a local architect or surveyor, and determined by practicality as much as by the whims of architectural taste.
An example of this is Brympton d'Evercy in Somerset, a house of many periods that is unified architecturally by the continuing use of the same mellow, local Ham Hill stone. The fashionable William Kent redesigned Rousham House only to have it quickly and drastically altered to provide space for the owner's twelve children.
The whole is a glorious mismatch of styles and fashions that seamlessly blend together. These could be called the true English country house. Wilton House , one of England's grandest houses, is in a remarkably similar vein; although, while the Drydens, mere squires, at Canons Ashby employed a local architect, at Wilton the mighty Earls of Pembroke employed the finest architects of the day: first Holbein , years later Inigo Jones, and then Wyatt followed by Chambers. Each employed a different style of architecture, seemingly unaware of the design of the wing around the next corner.
These varying "improvements", often criticised at the time, today are the qualities that make English country houses unique. Wealthy and influential people, often bored with their formal duties, go to the country in order to get out of London, the ugliest and most uncomfortable city in the world; they invented the long week-end to stay away as long as possible. There are no written terms for distinguishing between vast country palaces and comparatively small country houses; the descriptive terms, which can include castle , manor and court , provide no firm clue and are often only used because of a historical connection with the site of such a building.
The great houses are the largest of the country houses; in truth palaces, built by the country's most powerful — these were designed to display their owners' power or ambitions to power. The common denominator of this category of English country houses is that they were designed to be lived in with a certain degree of ceremony and pomp. It was not unusual for the family to have a small suite of rooms for withdrawing in privacy away from the multitude that lived in the household.
These houses were always an alternative residence to a London house. During the 18th and 19th centuries, for the highest echelons of English society, the country house served as a place for relaxing, hunting and running the country with one's equals at the end of the week, with some houses having their own theatre where performances were staged.
The country house , however, was not just an oasis of pleasure for a fortunate few; it was the centre of its own world, providing employment to hundreds of people in the vicinity of its estate. In previous eras, when state benefits were unheard of, those working on an estate were among the most fortunate, receiving secured employment and rent-free accommodation.
At the summit of this category of people was the indoor staff of the country house. Unlike many of their contemporaries prior to the 20th century, they slept in proper beds, wore well-made adequate clothes and received three proper meals a day, plus a small wage. In an era when many still died from malnutrition or lack of medicine, the long working hours were a small price to pay.
As a result of the aristocratic habit of only marrying within the aristocracy, and whenever possible to a sole heiress, many owners of country houses owned several country mansions,  and would visit each according to the season: Grouse shooting in Scotland , pheasant shooting and fox hunting in England. In the second category of Britain's country houses are those that belonged to the squirearchy or landed gentry.
These tend either to have evolved from medieval hall houses, with rooms added as required, or were purpose-built by relatively unknown local architects.
Already a subscriber or registered access user? A sense of British history can often be better gained from free museums, ruins, churches and cathedrals. Featured Historic Hotel. Churchill's own paintings hang on the walls, and in the garden is his painting retreat. More information about this seller Contact this seller 3. Anna Riddle added it Jan 22,
Smaller, and far greater in number than the "power houses", these were still the epicentre of their own estate, but were often the only residence of their owner. The Country house mystery was a popular genre of English detective fiction in the s and s; set in the residence of the gentry and often involving a murder in a country house temporarily isolated by a snowstorm or similar with the suspects all at a weekend house party.
Following the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, a third category of country houses was built as newly rich industrialists and bankers were eager to display their wealth and taste. By the s, with the English economy booming, new mansions were built in one of the many revivalist architectural styles popular throughout the 19th century. The slow decline of the English country house coincided with the rise not just of taxation, but also of modern industry, along with the agricultural depression of the s. By , this had led some owners into financial shortfalls as they tried to balance maintenance of their estates with the income they provided.
Some relied on funds from secondary sources such as banking and trade while others, like the severely impoverished Duke of Marlborough , sought to marry American heiresses to save their country houses and lifestyles. Click here to see more Tap here to see more Tap here to see more. Accessibility Links Skip to content. Subscribe Log in. Read the full article. Start your free trial.
Sabah Meddings. Real Estate.
The year-old earl is one of a new breed of aristocrat dragging their creaking manors,…. Want to read more? The village has been the setting of many a television and film production, including Pride and Prejudice, Cranford and Wolfman. We will also visit Lacock Abbey, which sits at the heart of the village. It was founded in and converted into a country house around In the afternoon we visit the gardens of lford Manor, near Bradford-on-Avon. This romantic award-winning Italian garden designed by Harold Peto contains a formal garden on old terraces embellished with his collection of classical statuary and architectural fragments.
Steep flights of steps link the terraces with pools, fountains, loggias, colonnades, urns and figures. From the imposing Great Hall to the beautifully intricate State Rooms, the Palace balances delicate detail with ambitious architecture on the grandest scale. Stunning portraits, tapestries and an exquisite collection of furniture grace the Palace interior, set against a magnificent backdrop of ornate ceilings and striking stone work. Just a short walk from the historic centre of the town, Oxford Witney Hotel, Witney offers great accommodation.
Enjoy a delicious meal in the contemporary Brasserie restaurant or maybe a light snack and refreshing drink in our bar and lounge. The hotel features a wide range of leisure facilities including a heated swimming pool, spa bath, steam room, and sauna—making Oxford Witney Hotel the right choice for conferences, meetings, weddings, and special events.
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