The country house is something special and unique to the English landscape. Historically built and inhabited by members of the aristocracy, a lot of these stately homes have been in the same family for centuries. Tradition dictates that the eldest son will inherit an estate which may seem unfair on their siblings but it’s done for good reason – to avoid breaking up the estate and losing the family seat over time.
Some of the finest country houses are found within our National Parks such as the Peak District and the Yorkshire Dales. Two of the finest houses and estates in these areas are Chatsworth House and Bolton Abbey, both of these are owned by the 12th Duke of Devonshire. A stroll around either on a fine summers day cannot be beaten.
Is it just people of Royal and noble ranks who own such estates? Not always, in the 19th century, many merchants and industrialists used their vast wealth to create and buy family seats of their own. They may not have attended Eton College or have a passion for Horse Racing but they could compete when it came to showing off their wealth. They commissioned landscape architects such as Capability Brown and did their interior shopping at Sotheby’s, they proved the self-made man was worthy of the dream they had created.
Many modern day stately homes are now in the hands of the National Trust. A lot of houses were destroyed after the war due to high taxes and death duties. There was also a shift in social dynamics which meant that being in service was no longer seen as desirable. If you could afford to pay your taxes and keep the family seat maintained, it was still a struggle to find the staff to run it properly. Some of the houses that were saved can now be seen in the form of country house hotels and the like. It’s a shame but the distribution of wealth had to change so it was only a matter of time before a large number of these fine houses disappeared from our landscape forever.