Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Longleat, Wiltshire (Image: Karen Weeks via flickr)
Longleat, Wiltshire in 2009 (Image: Karen Weeks via flickr)

So the National Lottery or an hitherto-unknown-and-childless uncle have again failed to give me the route to my spending a Christmas in front of a roaring fire in my own country house drawing room.  That said, I have had the pleasure of visiting other people’s houses either independently or via such wonderful organisations such as The Georgian Group. Delights of the last year have included:

Each has had a fascinating story to tell; be it the Italianate beauty of the gardens at Iford, the statesmanlike Chevening, the exciting return of the Old Masters collection to Houghton, the sensitive restoration of Heveningham Hall, or the endless architectural complexity and beauty of Apethorpe, to name just a few highlights.  Some stories stretch over centuries, others more recent, but for every one their history is constantly evolving in terms of their past, as more is discovered, and their present and future as new uses show them adapting and evolving today.

Terrace at Hengistbury Head (Image: RIBA Library Drawings Collection)
Terrace at Hengistbury Head (Image: RIBA Library Drawings Collection)

It’s this constantly changing nature, like light playing on mother-of-pearl, which makes country houses so endlessly fascinating.  Again, it’s been a pleasure to write the blog (though, as ever, work pressures have prevented greater frequency) and to have experts such as Amicia de Moubray provide articles (‘White knights – the 20th-century castle rescuers‘) – and I hope to have others in 2014.  Interest has remained strong, though slightly less than last year, which is likely due to the lack of TV series such as Country House Rescue.  One of the earliest articles of 2013, which also proved to be one of the most popular, was about a house which never came to be created: Harry Gordon Selfridge and his grand plans: Hengistbury Head. I am working on creating an index to make it easier to find older articles, as there are now hundreds.  Twitter has also proved to be a remarkably effective way of communicating both about and with houses so I would recommend it – even if you just follow @thecountryseat (over 1,900 followers and rising) and any houses of interest.

The year has presented country houses with the usual challenges and some new ones.  The threat posed by the HS2 rail link, and the plans which affected a significant number of houses, has not abated and may yet come to pass.  Country house sales this year have seen some notable examples, including the Grade-I listed Castle Goring and Halswell House (both misleadingly described in press coverage as ‘bargains’), change hands, whilst there has been relatively few of the premier league (exceptions being Kingston Lisle, The Mynde and Tyringham Hall) appearing in the front pages of Country Life, which I take to be a positive indicator.  Signs are that well-managed estates (of which there are thankfully many) are thriving and those which have diversified are finding a sustainable income.  For others, it will still be a challenge, as the English Heritage ‘At Risk’ Report highlighted, and, as has always been the case, some will change hands.  If Scotland chooses independence, this may trigger further sales – and, in theory, some interesting questions for the scope of the blog.

Thank you again for taking the time to share my passion in the UK’s country houses and the architectural history which they embody.  It’s humbling that you visit and subscribe and I hope that I can continue to provide articles and knowledge which you find interesting.  As always, I’m keen for your feedback, including which were your favourite articles (and why) and topics or houses you might like me to have a look at.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2014; a year which I hope will involve further discoveries and delights from the great treasures that are the nation’s country houses.

Kind regards



Articles published in 2013:

4 thoughts on “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

  1. Theresia Crosby December 28, 2013 / 12:02

    Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year to you Matthew!
    Keep the wonderful news coming…

  2. Judy Popley December 30, 2013 / 19:48

    Did you know that Patshull Hall, Staffs is up for sale? A beautiful looking building. Haven’t visited it myself. Thanks for the news – always a treat to read about your adventures. Happy new year.

  3. Matthew Beckett - The Country Seat December 30, 2013 / 23:32

    Thank you all for your kind comments – here’s to 2014!

    Judy: Patshull Hall is a remarkable house but I don’t think I knew that it was up for sale – but they do have a dedicated website: No mention of price though…


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