The Fate of the English Country House
About 2000 country houses - all of them large and opulent and surrounded by extensive estates - remain more or less intact in England today. Whether in public or private hands, they have become a major magnet for British and foreign visitors each year, and have been called 'England's one important contribution to art history'. But they are increasingly in danger of disappearing in an inhospitable economic and political climate. This book describes in detail the present state of these houses, those that continue to serve as family houses, as well as those that have been converted into National Trust museums, tourist attractions, convention centres, hotels, country clubs, schools, apartments, hospitals, and even prisons. From extensive conversations with many of the owners, managers, and curators of these houses, Professor Littlejohn extrapolates the probable future of England's historic houses, evaluates the many proposals that have been put forward for their survival, and considers the political, economic, and archaic heritage of the aristocratic past.
- Hardback | 360 pages
- 182.88 x 254 x 27.94mm | 975.22g
- 01 Apr 1997
- Oxford University Press Inc
- New York, United States
Back cover copy
For millions of people in the English-speaking world, the now standard image of the British country house is Brideshead Castle in Wiltshire: the domed and doomed baroque country seat of the Marchmain family seen in the BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel, Brideshead Revisited. In real life, the house used for the television series is Castle Howard, one of the largest and most opulent private homes in England, located on 10,000 acres of gardens, parkland, and woods in North Yorkshire, now visited by more than 200,000 tourists a year. Between 3,500 and 4,000 country houses - large, often elegantly furnished and surrounded by extensive estates - remain more or less intact in England today, although frequently converted to non-residential uses. Whether in public or private hands, the best known of them have become a major magnet for British and foreign tourists, attracting about 20 million paying visitors each year. Country houses, with their furnishings and landscaped settings, have been called England's one important contribution to art history. They figure prominently in the ongoing debate over how much of any "National Heritage" is worth preserving. In The Fate of the English Country House, David Littlejohn describes the past glories and troubled present condition of "the stately homes of England", both those that continue to serve as private houses, and those that have been turned into museums, tourist attractions, convention centers, hotels, country clubs, schools, apartments, hospitals, even prisons. By means of extensive conversations with their owners and managers (the book contains more than 50 photographs of the houses), the author takes us on a private tour of theseremarkable places and evaluates the many proposals that have been put forward for their survival.
About David Littlejohn
David Littlejohn is a Professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.
this chatty and eminently readable book ... proves to be based on a remarkably extensive range of visits to English country houses and conversations with their owners ... Littlejohn gives an admirably lucid account of what has happened to country houses since the beginning of the second World War and a well-informed assessment of the challenges which they present to their modern owners. * London Review of Books * the book is well worth reading * Bob Kindred, Context 55 September 1997 * Mr Littlejohn's clear-eyed approach is helped by a proper historical perspective. * The Economist (UK) * supremely impressive guide to this fascinating territory * Adam Nicolson, Evening Standard (London) * This is a wide ranging study of the many options available to owners of such houses, enlivened by comments by people who live, run, or used to live in such splendid piles. * Victoria Ellis, Darlington & Stockton Times * indispensable for students of the history of 20th-century institutions concerned with "the heritage" * The Times Higher Education Supplement *