The Classicist: Celebrating the English Country House
We have always been entranced by the history, both cultural and architectural, of the grand country houses of England. The London-based magazine Country Life has long been the essential chronicle of these iconic estates, having featured a different country house in each weekly issue since it was founded back in 1897 and advertised many hundreds more in its property pages. A stunning new book, The English Country House, by Mary Miers from Rizzoli is sourced from the magazine's incredible archives. More than 400 images, mostly in color, highlight 62 houses encompassing a range of architectural styles spanning seven centuries beginning with the medieval Stokesay Castle and also examining the decoration, gardens, and landscapes, settings that inspire a continuing tradition of sporting style via country pursuits pursued with panache such as hunting and shooting, as well as whole schools of interior design.
As a result of its famous series of beautifully illustrated and authoritative articles, Country Life amassed an "astonishing library of photography and scholarship that provides a fascinating record of changing tastes and approaches to the country house and its garden over the past century," Miers notes. The book is illustrated almost entirely with images from its famous picture library, many of them by leading photographers of their day. The focus is not on the world-famous palaces that have now become museums, but rather the sort of houses to which Country Life has had privileged access over the years, many of which are still private homes often occupied by descendants of the families that built them. In the gallery you can preview photos from the book of Parnham House in Dorset, Honington Hall in Warwickshire, Claydon House in Buckinghamshire, and Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire.
Gallery: The English Country House
Spanning more than seven centuries, these houses were nearly all built as an "expression of status at the center of a landed estate, many interpreting the mainstream architectural trends of the day with their own distinctive provincial character," Miers notes. "They celebrate that rich seam of English domestic architecture that reflects, through a variety of material and design, the diversity of the English landscape and its regional traditions of craftsmanship." Punctuating the book at intervals in the form of booklet inserts on rich, uncoated paper are six essays by leading British architectural historians that set the English country house into its social context and chart "the changing tastes in decorating and collecting, the development of ancillary buildings, gardens and landscapes, and finally, its influence in the United States" in our own magnates' mansions.