Upstairs, Downstairs, Gift Shop

Posted on by Zoe Guttenplan

Those of us who take an interest in such things have grown accustomed to reading about the death of the privately owned country house. Since 1974, when the V&A mourned its destruction in a landmark exhibition and the architectural historian John Cornforth predicted that ‘there is the distinct possibility of destruction on a scale not […]

Everyday Edens

Posted on by Zoe Guttenplan

It feels ungrateful to begin a review of this admirably wide-ranging and thoughtful book with a complaint, but it is one the publisher should have forestalled, since desirable accompaniments to a work of non-fiction are usually the publisher’s province. So, why no index, at least of the proper names of plants and humans that are […]

Whither the Snow House?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Today, Wanstead Park consists of 140 acres of pleasingly rough grassland and woods in the east London borough of Redbridge, a public amenity with a golf course and open-air theatre productions in summer. It borders Epping Forest and has a slightly wild air. The last time I visited was with a Welsh terrier club, when […]

Heritage Horticulture

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Halfway through this singular book I misread the phrase ‘the historical soil’ of Sissinghurst as ‘the hysterical soil’ – an understandable assumption to make, perhaps, because by this time the story had become a nightmarish journey into the neurotically beating heart of an historically compromised and jealously fought-over corner of England. Adam Nicolson is the […]

Posted in 358 | Comments Off on Heritage Horticulture

Oh What A Lovely Pile

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The British are a nation of house obsessives. Take a look at a National Trust car park at this time of year – or, more likely, the overflow car park. Clive Aslet, former editor of Country Life, is a learned guide to this obsession. Using twenty-one English houses – from the stone-built Norman Boothby Pagnell […]

Galoshes Galore

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Billed by its publisher as ‘entertaining and eccentric history-cum-humour for the Christmas market’, which I presume is a way of saying it will find itself in the sort of loos that keep libraries, A Short History of the Wellington Boot is like the dress so beloved of mildly sexist after-dinner speakers in search of a […]

Posted in 337 | Comments Off on Galoshes Galore

Horticultural Masters

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Versailles has never been the object of universal admiration. Horace Walpole called it ‘a garden for a great child’. The waspish Duke Saint-Simon – notably unfriendly toward Louis XIV, the founder and proprietor of this vast assemblage of fountains, allées, palaces, lakes, statuary and assorted horticultural splendours on the outskirts of Paris – objected more […]

Posted in 337 | Comments Off on Horticultural Masters

Lares Et Penates

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘No nation has identified itself more with the house,’ a German visitor remarked of earlier twentieth-century Britain. Looking from the outside, this comment would seem only to apply to the lucky handful of people who have the money, and the requisite number of acres, to indulge their taste for idiosyncratic magnificence. Deborah Cohen’s book looks […]

Posted in 337 | Comments Off on Lares Et Penates

Privet Passions

Posted on by Tom Fleming

We have hedges to the front, hedges to the back and hedges to the side. They are all laurel, that dull and dreary evergreen, and I dislike them all equally. The annual early winter cut is a frightful chore, hours wobbling on a stepladder swiping up and down and side to side with a great […]

Green & Pleasant Patches

Posted on by Tom Fleming

This enormous and beautifully produced book, replete with paintings and photos and little-known planning schemes both visionary and horrendous, comes with a slightly daunting warning: ‘My book makes no claims to being a comprehensive survey of the London squares: the subject is too immense to cover in a single volume.’ Todd Longstaffe-Gowan should not worry. […]

Bringing the Houses Down

Posted on by Tom Fleming

In 1974 Roy Strong, John Harris and Marcus Binney drew attention to the plight of the English country house in an exhibition at the V&A. The catalogue, The Destruction of the Country House 1875–1975, is now something of a collector’s item, and deservedly so, as it was the first book to bring to public notice […]

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March