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Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History Paperback – January 26, 1994
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"From the Trade Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The book follows a chronological path from the Mediaval Household to the present day. The text isn't dry at all. Delicious details abound: Bess of Hardwick pacing her Great Chamber of Hardwick Hall, waiting for the royal visit that never came in the instantly-dated house she'd built for this very purpose, ... The origin of the phrase "backstairs intrigues" (both political and sexual).... the slow but persistant birth of the aristocratic ideal of "privacy"--and how it affected dining halls....the rise of the great dilettante libraries (and the rooms to house them).....and the advent of the freakish innovation of indoor plumbing (and a picture of the Duke of Wellington's elaborate WC) are just a few tidbits.
Mr. Girouard doesn't neglect the "downstairs" portion of a Great House, because he's interested in the whole institution as a functioning unit. Some of the most intriguing photos are of beloved servants' portraits, and the almost Shaker-like beauty of a working kitchen or laundry. Included, also, is a printed "Summary of Livery Men's Duties, Etc., Etc.", of Hatfield House, and darned if it doesn't sound like instructions for empoyees at an indifferent New York hotel!
This book is a delicious retrospective, and will make any red-blooded Anglophile who longs for one of these faded leviathans very happy indeed. Now, if you need me further, I will be in the Orangery.
From the structure of the English Country House Girouard recreates the lives of those who lived in them. Not just the Lord and Lady but all those who lived and worked there. How many people were in this room during dinner? How did the food get to the dining area (usually a long trek. This minimized the chance the kitchen would burn the place down but mimimized the chance dinner hadn't congealed). How many people (ladies in waiting, servants, servants of servants) were sleeping in the room together in 1500, 1700 or 1890? The idea that one would actually have any privacy is a very recent concept.
A fascinating reconstruction of what life was like not just for the head of the household, but for all who lived on the estate.
However, once I began to read this book, all thoughts about photos went out of my head! This book is informative, intelligent and thorough. The author has studied his subject very well, and writes in a clear and easy to follow manner. I really do find the floorplans to be an invaluable tool towards understanding the buildings the author is describing.
I am currently using this book as a research tool for my novel, but I did buy this book just for the love of the subject and I was not disappointed.
I would recommend this book again and again to anyone with a love of history and architecture.
Life in the English Country House offers a history of the great hall, the backstairs, the great chamber, the parlor, and many others. The book also offers a history of the people who once lived in these grand homes. You will find a history of the steward, the footman, the butler, and the gradual segregation of the country house servant.
There are also many fascinating stories that the author shares with the readers. One of my favorites was surrounding The King of of Spain's visit to the Duke of Somerset's Petworth in 1703. The King was welcome, but not by the Duke, but by Queen Anne's husband, Prince George, who showed him around the estate as if the country house was his own. The author writes that "the principal function of the duke seems to have been to pay the bills." I also enjoyed the story of Queen Elizabeth's visit to Edward Seymour's Elvethan, who the author writes nearly went bankrupt after his extravagant but politically necessary hospitality.
Life in the English Country House is not only a fascinating read, but it contains beautiful illustrations of some of England's most breathtaking country houses. Most of the pictures are in black and white, but there are quite a few in color. Whether you are doing research for a novel or just curious about english country house, this will book will educate you on the complicated history behind these beautiful historic buildings.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Clear, concise, with amazing illustrations, this was a fascinating read from page one to The End. The sections were well organized and the author deserves credit for making what... Read morePublished on May 3, 2014 by Voracious Reader!
Covers the development of the English country house in detail, with particular attention to the internal lay out. Read morePublished on March 22, 2014 by Exiled warrior
If you wish to read extensively on the evolution of the English country house from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, this is an erudite, lucid and compelling read. Read morePublished on December 30, 2013 by L. M. Keefer
Just what I always wanted to know....It brings you back into the times of Mr.Darcy, yet it is more the just entertaining. Great book!Published on November 9, 2013 by Victoria Zlotkowski
Any "Downton Abbey" fans reading this? Welcome to an ideal television/movie tie-in volume, though never intended as such. Read morePublished on September 28, 2013 by Chimonsho
Mark Girouard's books are really wonderful for anyone interested in Architecture, interior design, history or Life in the English country. Read morePublished on September 6, 2013 by maid in america
This book shows how the English country house was a machine that provided the tools necessary to rule the countryside. The focus is on the household as a whole. Read morePublished on July 23, 2013 by S. Smith-Peter
My copy was worse than just a little smelly - it was mildewed, the pages were warped, and I would have needed to read it with a hazmat suit. Read morePublished on March 12, 2013 by Ajay Warner