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 manor house near Grantham to the Butterfly House, a twenty-first-century glass horror in Surrey – Aslet navigates a winding yet engaging path through building practices and domestic habits over the centuries.
The older the house, the more warped our picture of the period is. Until 1500, most houses in England were made out of wood and unlikely to have lasted till today. So the survivors, like Boothby Pagnell, are bound to be grander than the norm. Even Aslet's choice of timber