The English country house has been on the brink of ruination since at least the start of World War I—or perhaps the first chug of the Industrial Revolution—or was it the end of serfdom …? Propping up this dying, decadent institution has been a favored pastime of preservationists, architecture buffs, and earls for about as long as the institution has been around. In his new book, Noble Ambitions, historian Adrian Tinniswood peels back the wallpaper to show how these ancestral piles survived both World War II and the sunset of the British Empire—and in some ways, are more relevant than they ever were.
Go beyond the episode:
- Adrian Tinniswood’s Noble Ambitions: The Fall and Rise of the English Country House After World War II
- For the completionist, his previous book: The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House, 1918-1939
- Revisit the famed 1974 Victoria & Albert exhibition “The Destruction of the Country House,” or go visit Agecroft Hall and Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, one of several country homes dismantled and reassembled on this side of the Atlantic. In England? Check out Sudbury Hall, which gets a shout out in the episode
- The first bestselling nonfiction book about the country house? Mark Girouard’s Life in the English Country House
- Read Sam Knight’s essay about the National Trust’s recent report on colonialism and slavery: “Britain’s Idyllic Country Houses Reveal a Darker History”
- If you haven’t yet, you simply must watch Downtown Abbey
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