Lancelot “Capability” Brown will forever be linked to these great mansions and is remembered as “the last of the great English 18th century artists to be accorded his due”, and “England’s greatest gardener”. Mr. Brown’s influence was so great that the contributions to the English garden made by his predecessors are often overlooked. During the height of his career It is estimated that Brown was responsible for over 170 gardens surrounding the finest country houses and estates in Britain. He completely dominated landscape design in the 18th century and during the 1760s averaged commissions of about £740,000 a year.
“In Brown’s hands the house, which before had dominated the estate, became an integral part of a carefully composed landscape intended to be seen through the eye of a painter, and its design could not be divorced from that of the garden”
He was nicknamed “Capability” because he would tell his clients that their property had the “capability” for improvement.
These estates were more then just big houses. They controlled the economy in villages, towns and even whole counties. Maintaining and operating these country cottages required hoards of housekeepers, legions of lawn men, battalions of butlers, cadres of cooks and a phalanx of farmers. But, after the World Wars, when the seemingly endless supply of underpaid workers dried up it became impossible to maintain this system any longer. I’m pretty sure this is where our whole notion of “trickle down economics” came from. Keep the rich folks happy and they will, in turn, provide low paid employment. Regardless of my cynicism, these homes are magnificent and thanks to the National Trust most have been saved for the nation and the world to enjoy. They represent the pinnacle of art and culture from a bygone era when civility, learning and social standing were paramount. Provided it wasn’t you that had to do the dusting.
Anglesey was built as a priory in 1100 but, like most Catholic Orders, the Augustinian Canons were expelled in 1536 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and all the good stuff was taken. Over the centuries it bounced around through a few owners until 1926 when Huddleston Broughton, having inherited a fortune from mining and railroads in America, bought the place. He started to renovate in earnest and began to amass a huge collection of beautiful furniture, artworks and statuary. Huddleston became the Baron Fairhaven in 1929. He never married and decided in the early 40’s that he would leave the Abbey and all it’s contents to the National Trust on his death. Which effectively meant that he spent his adult life collecting for the Trust.
We grew up with a family dog named “Bungey”. In all these years I’ve never seen or even heard of another one until I met the Baron’s.
This magnificent Jacobean mansion located in Norfolk and covers more than 4,000 acres. Before it’s last private owner Phillip Kerr died in 1940 he helped build the National Trust and save hundreds of grand homes for future generations to enjoy. But even with his accomplishments Kerr is far from Blickley’s most famous resident. It is believed that Anne Boleyn, the future beheaded Queen, was born here sometime between 1501 and 1505.
Not to be forgotten, Anne returns every May 9th, the anniversary of her decapitation, dressed all in white, carrying her severed and dripping head. She arrives in a coach driven by a headless horseman and four headless horses. She glides through the hall, rooms and countless corridors until sunrise.
Highclere Castle doesn’t have the turmultuous past of some of it’s counterparts and seems to be most famous as the filming location for the award-winning period drama Downton Abbey.
The castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which was built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 8th century. The original site was recorded in the Domesday Book.
This neoclassical country house was the residence of the Marquess of Bristol before being sold to the National Trust in the late 20th century. The Marquesses of Bristol have laid claim to this estate since 1467.
In 1956, the house, park, and contents were given to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. As part of the deal, a 99-year lease on the 60-room East Wing was given to the Marquess of Bristol. However, in 1998 the 7th Marquess of Bristol was a little strapped for cash and sold the remaining lease on the East Wing to the National Trust. He was succeeded by his half-brother Frederick Hervey, the 8th Marquess of Bristol. Freddy tried to buy back the remaining lease, but the Trust refused, thereby contravening the Letter of Wishes which states that the head of the family should always be offered whatever accommodation he chooses at Ickworth.
Melford Hall is an amazing estate in the village of Long Melford, Suffolk. The hall was mostly constructed in the 16th century, incorporating parts of a medieval building held by the abbots of Bury St Edmunds which had been in use since before 1065.
Milford Hall has had it’s share of trials and tribulations over the years. It was seized from the abbots during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Queen Mary gave it to Sir William Cordell who passed it via his sister to Thomas and Mary Savage. Both were serious Catholics at a time when the Civil War was getting momentum and people were choosing sides. The Savages backed King Charles 1 who would become the only British Monarch to be beheaded. Needless to say, it didn’t go well for the Savages. Thomas died in 1636 leaving Mary and their 13 children broke and considered traitors. Warrants were issued for Mary to answer for her family’s indebtedness. All her appeals were denied and she died in Debtor’s Prison. During the Stour Valley Riots of 1642 the house was attacked and the interiors were demolished by an anti-Catholic crowd.
In February 1942 soldiers that were billeted at the hall broke into the West End to have some card games and a bit of a dance. They managed to set the whole wing on fire. It was gutted out and rebuilt after war retaining the Tudor brickwork exterior.
In 1786 it was sold to Harry Parker, son of Admiral Hyde Parker and is considered ancestral seat of the Parker Baronets.
From the 1890’s Beatrix Potter was a cousin of the Parkers and was a frequent visitor to the hall.
Sandringham House and it’s 20,000 acres of land are in Norfolk, England. The site has been occupied since the Elizabethan era. In 1862, the hall was purchased by Queen Victoria at the request of the Prince of Wales. The house is privately owned by Queen Elizabeth II and is a Grade II listed country house: having particularly important buildings of more than special interest.
The house, begun in 1640, and is the largest house in Cambridgeshire. The 3,000 acres of parkland and farm were “naturalised” by Capability Brown in 1767.
In 1938, Capt. George Bambridge and his rich wife, Elsie, daughter of Rudyard Kipling, purchased it after having been tenants since 1932. They used the inheritance left to them by her father, and the royalties from his books, for the long-needed refurbishment of the house and grounds. When Elsie died in 1979 she left the property to the National Trust.
Useless But Interesting Fact #13
This seven drawer high boy dresser has a draw for intimates and small items for each day. Your fancy Sunday garments go in the uppermost draw. Hence the expression “Top Draw”.