Holkham Hall, one of the grandest English country houses. Country houses not only displayed the owners' fashionable and cultivated tastes, but was the center of a vast landed estate, providing employment to hundreds
The English country house is generally accepted as a large house that was once in the ownership of an individual who in most of the cases owned another great house in the West End of London. The country house was not only a weekend retreat for aristocrats, but also often a full time residence for the minor gentry.
Evolution of the English country house
The country houses of England have developed over the last 500 years. Before this time most larger houses were fortified, because their owners were feudal lords or overlords of their manor. The Tudor period of stability in the country saw the first of the large unfortified country houses.
With the rise of modern industry and urbanization, when people left the country to go to the big cities the popularity of country houses declined as there were less people in the country. After 1945 it became very difficult to pay for the huge staff that was required to maintain these houses.
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Latimer House in Buckinghamshire; an English country house
Longleat House was the first country house to open to the public, and also claims the first safari park outside Africa. As such, it became the first property in what later was known as the Stately Home Industry.
Forde Abbey in Dorset. Many country houses have evolved and been extended over several centuries. Here, the architecture runs from Medieval ecclesiastical to Palladian and on to Strawberry Hill Gothic, while at sometime an attempt at unity has been made by the use of crenelation.
Brympton d'Evercy in Somerset evolved from the Medieval period; its provincial architects are long forgotten. Yet, Christopher Hussey described it as "The most incomparable house in Britain, the one which created the greatest impression and summarises so exquisitely English country life qualities".
Kedleston Hall designed by Matthew Brettingham and Robert Adam, one of the great power houses.
Waddesdon Manor. During the Victorian era, vast country houses by wealthy industrialists and bankers were built in a variety of styles
Trentham. During the 20th century, thousands of country houses were demolished, their stone and fixtures sold. During this era, many fine architectural features were transported to the US.