Tag Archives: country house

Courses and core reading material

There are now centres and specialist courses for the study of country houses. The specific geographical spread of these courses probably exists as a result of the suitability of accessible houses in the locality, and in all cases there is always a house used extensively for study purposes.

Selected universities/institutions that include modular based study of the country house as part of their History of Art, Museums Studies or History.

Nottingham Trent University

NUI Maynooth

University of Buckingham

University of Derby

University of Exeter

University of Leeds

University of Warwick

University of Wolverhampton

It is also worth checking the following for other forms of study which usually link their modular courses with summer schools and continuing education.

The Rich Man in his Castle: the Victorian Country House – citylit: Centre for Adult Learning, London (April 2014)

Culture of The English Country House – University of Oxford, Department for Continuing Education

Stately Homes and Country Gardens – Oxford Royale Academy

Country House Study Week – University of Buckingham

Summer Study – Durham University Study Week

Certificate

Architecture: the English country house – University of Warwick

Certificate in Country House Studies – University of Hull

Masters Degree

Centre for the Study of the Country House – University of Leicester (part of the Department of the History of Art and Film). There are two MA courses – The Country House in Art, History and Literature (based on campus) and The Country House (by distance learning).

Masters level modules

British Country House – (the Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies) University of York. At Close Quarters: The English Country House and its Collections – Sainsbury Institute for Art at the University of East Anglia (in association with The Attingham Trust)

The courses themselves generally focus upon the English country house (with the exception of Maynooth) and its formation to houses in the media and houses as museums or heritage sites. Distinct modules will include the building of the country house, estate and household management, heritage management, houses as depositories of art collections, and some greater historical context such as politics, wealth and land management. At a higher level of study and specifically in research terms, gender, class and material culture/consumption have steadily established themselves as worthy subjects connected with the study of the country house with individual case studies proving that the country house was more than a decorative administrative base for a landed estate.

For anyone wanting to study the (mainly) English country house, these books are crucial reads. Many of these formed part of a key reading list when I was an undergraduate student of art history over ten years ago. When I started my research degree on women and the country house in 2003, those same key books were still being recommended to the student of the country house. I’ve updated the list for 2011 and included books which also cover something more of the social and economic history of the country house since these topics are integral to the subject in current teaching trends. This is by no means comprehensive, and places of study will recommend many more as part of their ‘core/preliminary’ reading lists.

For a full list of different types of courses and their locations in the UK see Matthew Beckett at http://thecountryseat.org.uk/the-study/

J. S. Ackerman. The Villa: Form and Ideology of Country Houses. Princeton University Press (1990).

Dana  Arnold. The Georgian Country House: Architecture Landscape and Society. Stroud (1998).

J. Beckett. The Aristocracy in England, 1660-1914. (1988).

C. Christie. The British Country House in the Eighteenth Century. Manchester (2000).

Olive Cook. The English Country House: an Art and a Way of Life. (1974).

J. Gaze. Figures in a Landscape. A History of the National Trust. London (1988).

Mark Girouard. Life in the English Country House: a Social and Architectural History. New Haven and London (1978).

Mark Girouard. Life in the French Country House. (2001).

C. Hardyment. Behind the Scenes: Domestic Arrangements in Historic Houses. (1997).

J. J. Hecht. The Domestic Servant Class in Eighteenth-Century England. London (1956).

Gervase Jackson-Stops. The English Country House in Perspective. New York (1990)

M. Sayer. The Disintergration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections. Norwich (1993)

Lawrence Stone and Jeanne C. Fawtier Stone. An Open Elite?: England 1540-1880. (1995).

R. Strong. The Destruction of the Country House. London (1974).

John Summerson. Architecture in Britain, 1530-1830. Yale University Press (1993).

Amanda Vickery. Behind Closed Doors: at Home in Georgian England. (2010).

Richard Wilson and Alan Mackley. Creating Paradise: the Building of the Country House, 1660-1880. (2006).

Update November 2011: Warwick University have begun a project on the East India Company at Home which is a wide-ranging body of research into elite families, country houses and specific material culture connected with the East India Company in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The main aim of the project is to establish how goods from the east were traded or bought, displayed and cared for in the elite home with special focus on the country houses that were being built or rebuilt and modernised between 1757 and 1857. This is indeed a large time frame, however the website for the project contains some valuable material for the prospective student of the British country house including a comprehensive bibliography and detailed resources.

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A Short Story from Plompton Hall, North Yorkshire.

       In 1755 Daniel Lascelles (brother of Edwin who commissioned Harewood House) bought the estate from the de Plumpton family when Robert de Plumpton died without a male heir. Lascelles demolished the existed decrepit manor house in order to build a major new house to the design of John Carr. The house appears to have been converted from the south range of the stables when Lascelles moved to Goldsborough Hall, North Yorkshire in 1762 and building work on the much larger house to south-west of the stables ceased. The Hall and stables are mainly ashlar with rusticated stone quoins. The house is a private residence today, but the park and eighteenth-century pleasure grounds are now known as Plumpton Rocks (yes, that is a different spelling) which provided inspiration for J. M. W. Turner.

Plompton Hall

Present day Plompton Hall

 

       The story here exposes the relationships between household members and the outside workforce when a country house was under construction. It centres on the period of building before 1762 when Daniel Lascelles was still eager to establish a large house on this site. It is also possible to see the dynamics of a household without female authority in a managerial role!

 ******

       The exceptionally well hidden pregnancy of the Plompton cook, Sarah Lister would have continued so if it were not for the delivery of a healthy baby boy almost a month early. Lascelles had the incident described to him by the family doctor, Dr. Richardson who had been present during the labour, and the steward Samuel Popplewell who took some responsibility in defending the woman’s position in the household. Sarah Lister had planned to take leave for her relations when she believed the baby was due, but giving birth a month earlier than expected thwarted all plans of her maintaining such high levels of secrecy. Lascelles now had an otherwise highly regarded female servant to approach on delicate terms. Sarah Lister was fortunate to have secured support from her male colleagues with both a Doctor Richardson and Popplewell writing to Lascelles emphasising her wish to stay on in service whilst also complimenting him on his existing good nature. Popplewell rather optimistically hoped this would be further realised in this instance and reminded Lascelles that she was ‘an excellent cook’. Dr. Richardson was a little more objective:

…she says if you have so much compassion for a miserable wretch [,] forgive this great offence and continue her in your service, she will be bound by duty and gratitude to do everything in her power to serve you right. If you don’t think fit to continue her she beggs [sic] you will not expose her but give her a character that she may get her Bread in some other part of the world…

        Luckily for Sarah Lister, Daniel Lascelles eventually responded compassionately – not because he was entirely sympathetic to her misfortune, rather it was due to ‘the unpardonable thing in this affair was that the scene of this business should be laid in my house’, his forgiveness was therefore bound to keeping the ‘unlucky affair hushed…for the sake of good order in my house.’ More unfortunate for Lister, however was exactly how public the affair had become; a circumstance which led several workmen at Plompton to taunt and sexually harass her. Both Lascelles and Popplewell admitted her ‘freedoms with any of ye men servants’ had damaged her authority in the household, but hoped it could be quickly restored, especially as Lascelles had overlooked the affair and had similarly expected everyone else to do so. Taunts and bullish behaviour were unacceptable, whether her authority had diminished permanently is not known but at least Lascelles and Popplewell remained adamant (and somewhat patronising) in their agreement that Sarah Lister was one of the ‘better female Cooks in ye County and not many Housekeepers who sends up a Dessert in a prettier manner…’

       Retaining a servant who proved good in their department regardless of their irresponsible behaviour outside of it saved time on hiring and firing but anxieties clearly persisted where trust had been broken under the roof of an employer. For Lascelles, authority was paramount to safeguarding the order of the household. For Sarah Lister, her supposed sexual dalliances at Plompton left her mentally and physically vulnerable within a male environment, where men were in charge of all managerial affairs, as well as occupying wider space in the house as the building and interior work progressed.

A servant’s promiscuity had implications for the servant themselves; whilst an employer’s patience and diplomacy were meant as cool warnings for other household members to remain circumspect. Daniel Lascelles offered a second chance, but could easily have made examples of a servant caught up in scurrilous events.

Archives for Plompton Hall are to be found at West Yorkshire Archives, Sheepscar, Leeds. They have been placed with those of the Lascelles family which is mainly concerned with the building and plans for Harewood House in the eighteenth century and then personal papers up to the present day. There is a good index which breaks down the correspondence from the eighteenth century between family members and the steward Samuel Popplewell, from which this story is composed.

Links: National archives link to repository information, http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a/records.aspx?cat=205-h&cid=0#0

West Yorkshire Archive Service, http://www.archives.wyjs.org.uk/

Plumpton Rocks – part of the park and grounds at Plompton where John Carr helped create the dam for the lake eventually establishing a romantic walk which can still be visited today, http://www.yorkshire.com/turner/trails/plumpton-rocks

An interesting document relating to the conservation of Plompton area.  http://www.harrogate.gov.uk/Documents/DS-P-ConAreaPlompton2.pdf


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Temple Newsam House, Leeds

 

Temple Newsam House (author's own image)

       I want to start with Temple Newsam House, Leeds because without a doubt it is a local authority gem, and mainly as I used to work there! Described in the current guidebook as ‘one of the great historic houses of England, famous as the birthplace of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots in 1545, and sometimes called “The Hampton Court of the North”‘.

  
       The land here belonged to the Knights Templar in the early Middle Ages; a connection which gives the ‘Temple’ prefix. The house on the current site was originally built by Thomas Lord Darcy. Begun as a courtyard house with a gateway to the north in about 1480, it was probably completed by c.1520. Darcy’s involvement in The Pilgrimage of Grace led to his execution for treason in 1537, and the house passed to the Crown. It was then presented as a gift by Henry VIII to his niece Lady Lennox and her husband, whose son Lord Darnley was born and brought up here. However, Lady Lennox’s schemes to see her bloodline on the English throne once again saw the house confiscated by the Crown. 
 
       Eventually the original Tudor building fell into decay until it was ‘rescued’ by Sir Arthur Ingram in 1622 when he bought it from a descendant of the Lennox family for £12,000. He extensively remodelled the old Tudor courtyard house by demolishing the east wing and rebuilding the north and south wings; uniting the whole with an external inscription in the stone balustrade. 
 
       Ingram’s descendants lived here for the next 300 years, when in 1922 the house and parkland were sold to the Leeds Corporation. Rather tragic for the time, the then owner the Hon. Edward Wood offered the contents for an extra £10,000 but the Corporation declined and many of the goods were dispersed. A few items were left in the house as a gift to the citizens of Leeds, and several lots were purchased at the sale in order to furnish a caretaker’s flat!
 
        In 1923 the house opened to the public with new visitor routes added internally. The house developed as an art museum over the next few decades until the late 1970s when Leeds City Council and curatorial staff began the slow road to refurbishment in order to establish Temple Newsam as both a fine and decorative arts and country house museum. Some of the original treasures have been rediscovered and bought back; often placed in their original settings throughout the house according to inventories and sale catalogues.
 
       Today Temple Newsam House contains many rich collections on wallpapers, textiles, silver and ceramics. There are fine pieces of Thomas Chippendale (and the Younger) furniture too, as well as what is considered to be the most significant part of the furniture collection – the suite of gallery seats by James Pascall, repatriated in 1939 when it was bought from the Hon Edward Wood to enliven the beautiful yet sparse Picture Gallery space in the north wing.
 
 

The Picture Gallery 2008 (author's own image)

 
       I worked at Temple Newsam House for five years whilst studying for my research degree. Many of the staff are fantastic and there are always educational activities and holiday workshops. A few years ago there was a severe restructuring of Leeds City Council and a few museum and gallery staff found their jobs had been put asunder. Attitudes and opinions have changed throughout local authority owned museums and galleries where restructure and finances have been at the forefront of management. And so, with the speedy cuts being made in the current economic climate to our public services, I fear that the modern faces of Temple Newsam will be changing again. 
Links: The Leeds City Council website for Temple Newsam www.leeds.gov.uk/templenewsam. This is quite comprehensive, and I definitely recommend using this as a source for learning a great deal more about the house, its owners and collections. Contacts for the house are;
 
Temple Newsam House
Leeds
LS15 0AE
House: 0113 2647321
(Please note that 0113 2645535 is the general estate number you may find in publications and websites.)
 
(And for a bit of laugh: www.hauntedleeds.co.uk/templenewsam.htm )

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My First Post by countryhousereader

This is the first post by me – countryhousereader! Phew, it’s also my first blog, so it’ll be a bit creaky to start with. My hope is to express my knowledge of country houses gained through research, or just mooching about them when I get the chance.

This blog is intended to complement the existing country house websites and blogs which have detailed specific houses, their owners and architects. I do not wish to tread on any toes with more of the same; others are doing a grand job when it comes to establishing comprehensive histories of the country house on the internet. Instead, my intention is to deliver some of the themes associated with the country house in England (and Britain) as well as abroad. Amongst other things, this will include book and article reviews both past and present, and the occasional snippet of information from the houses themselves.

Hope you enjoy!

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