Noble Ambitions: The Fall and Rise of the English Country House After World War II

Adrian Tinniswood. Basic, $32 (432p) ISBN 978-1-5416-1798-8
In this illuminating follow-up to The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House, 1918–1939, University of Buckingham historian Tinniswood chronicles the “crisis” that engulfed England’s rural mansions in the middle of the 20th century, as rising taxes, decreasing land value, a shortage of domestic help, and class tensions led to the destruction, abandonment, or selling-off of hundreds of estates. Tinniswood draws memorable character sketches of financially troubled, prim-mannered peers who didn’t “want to be the one to let it go,” and recounts the wave of “reducing” (“an elegant phrase which disguised the inelegant demolition of those parts of a country house which were now surplus to requirements”) that swept the countryside in the 1950s. Unlikely saviors arrived in the 1960s and ’70s in the form of hard-partying celebrities “in search of rural grandeur” and investment opportunities. (When the Who’s Roger Daltrey developed gout in the toe he’d injured while rehabilitating his 17th-century mansion in East Sussex, he gave up drinking.) A 1974 exhibition titled The Destruction of the Country House at the Victoria and Albert Museum galvanized opposition to a proposed wealth tax and “gave birth to powerful conservation movement.” Vividly evoking the glamour and ruin of postimperial England, this winning survey is well-stocked with intriguing historical tidbits. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/04/2021
Release date: 09/21/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-6686-0072-6
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