Hugh Massingberd

Owners Move Back

The Fall and Rise of the Stately Homes


Yale University Press 544pp £19.95 order from our bookshop

As a would-be fogeyish young clubman in the late Sixties, I took a shine to a still raven-haired Twenties dandy called Peter Fleetwood-Hesketh, Lancastrian squire, pioneering figure in the Georgian Group and Victorian Society, and friend of John Betjeman, whom he had briefly succeeded as architectural critic of The Daily Telegraph. (The arrangement came to an abrupt end after Fleetwood-Hesketh’s dinner was interrupted by a telephone call from the news desk informing him that Le Corbusier had handed in his dinner pail. Would he ‘file’ some copy, pronto? His urbane response – ‘I’ll endeavour to pop a little something in the post in a couple of days’ – did not find favour in Fleet Street.) While ploughing through Peter Mandler’s scholarly study of changing views about the ‘National Heritage’ of Stately Homes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, I kept on hearing Fleetwood-Hesketh’s fluting drawl: ‘My dear, all this rot about national heritage! What has the nation ever done? Country houses were created by the Landed Gentry.’

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