How to Read a Country House

Front Cover
Ebury, 2005 - Architecture - 272 pages
Why was heraldry so important to the families for whom houses were built? How does the layout of a house reveal the values of the people who lived in it? The country houses of the UK and Ireland are expressions of the best craftsmanship and art of their time, an essential part of the British physical and cultural landscape. Every year, a huge number of us visit these houses, but with a little more understanding of them, our visits can become even more enjoyable. By reading the architectural features of a house, we get a sense of how it has evolved, from such simple items as windows, doors, chimneys and staircases. Interiors, as well as exteriors, have a story to tell, with floor layouts and contents of rooms revealing much about the people who built and lived in them. We can also read the iconography of a house: its symbols and images, spanning subjects such as classical mythology, religion and British history. Heraldry too is an essential tool for understanding much of the details found in country houses, from coats of arms to crests, or fireplace decorations and ceiling bosses. Through all this, we gain a glimpse into the social world of the families who lived there - the stories of many country houses are inextricably linked by marriage, royalty or political or military service. Richly illustrated with stunning photographs from the unique archive of Country Life magazine, this book is a joy for all those who want to learn more about our heritage, art and architecture, and the essential characteristics of a classic country house.

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Reading a Country House
Reading the Outside
Reading the Inside

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About the author (2005)

Jeremy Musson is architectural editor of Country Life magazine and a leading historian of the country house. He is the author of The English Manor House.

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