The Late, Great, Country House

Dissecting the myth of the deteriorating British estate

The south front of Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (National Trust Photolibrary/Alamy)
The south front of Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire (National Trust Photolibrary/Alamy)

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.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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