Girouard, Mark. Historic Houses of Britain.

NY: Morrow, 1979.

Girouard is best known (and most highly regarded) for his astute explanations of architecture’s history and theoretical development. In that sense, this is one of his lesser works, being more of a pictorial guide book with miscellaneous history added, but it’s still an excellent place to sink an afternoon.

He considers twenty-four large residences in Britain (mostly in England), some of them royal, some not even connected with the peerage, some palatial, some merely large “country houses,” some still functioning in part as family residences, some of them now full-time museums in the care of the National Trust, but all of them of interest to social historians as well as to tourists of the better-educated sort. A few, like Hampton Court and Hatfield House and Chatsworth, are quite famous and also are familiar to anyone who watches Masterpiece Theater. Others, like Traquair House in Scotland and Cotehele in Cornwall, really deserve to be better known. Each chapter includes historical background and numerous anecdotes about the individual or family that built it and was responsible for it later on — both architects and those who wrote the checks — with large color illustrations on every page that encourage close study. It’s all quite absorbing. If you’re planning a trip, though, I recommend referring to the relevant articles at Wikipedia to update the now outdated tourist information.

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Published in: on 31 October 2011 at 6:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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