The history of the country house is sadly often a cycle of rise and fall with the main variable being the speed of each respectively. The old phrase was ‘one generation made the wealth, the second enjoyed it, and the third lost it’. Over recent decades the trend has changed slightly in that, with longer life expectancies prolonging the older generations, the houses have had fewer chances for the rejuvenation which inheritance often brought. As an alternative, Ruth Watson uses Country House Rescue as a catalyst for the type of entrepreneurial change which is the only way for these houses to survive – if only the owners would listen!
The first episode in Series 3, to be broadcast at on Channel 4 at 21:00 on 6 March 2011, takes us to Wyresdale Park in Lancashire to meet a father and son who don’t agree on the best way to maximise the obvious potential of the beautiful estate.
Wyresdale Hall was built between 1856-65 for Bolton cotton-magnate-turned-banker, Peter Ormrod, who bought 6,000-acres from the Duke of Hamilton to create his estate. The house, which cost £50,000 (about £4m at today’s value) at the time, was designed by noted local architect Edward Graham Paley (b.1823 – d.1895) who had an extensive practice, partnering first with his mentor Edmund Sharpe, then, following Sharpe’s retirement, Hubert Austin, before being joined by his son, Henry Paley. The work of Paley & Austin in particular was well-regarded with Pevsner saying they “did more outstanding work than any other in the county” and was “outstanding in the national as well as the regional context”.
Paley worked on relatively few country houses, being much better known for his ecclesiastical output, with included the design of Lancaster Cathedral. Paley was brought up in deeply religious home and, working with Edmund Sharpe, who was heavily influenced by Pugin, it was unsurprising that Paley adopted the strict ecclesiastical style with the ‘correct’ use of Gothic elements. Perhaps looking a little too much like a convent rather than a home, the house is, nonetheless, still a good example of the type of regional interpretations of Pugin’s architectural theories which gained ground in the 19th-century.
The grade-II listed house and estate passed through the Ormrod family before the land was bought by the Whewell family in the 1920s who then bought the house in 1967. Now the family are facing the usual struggles of a listed house, an extensive list of improvements, and the need to make the changes which sometimes sit uncomfortably with the more traditional older generation.
Country House Rescue – Series 3
My usual powers have slightly failed me and I haven’t a verified list of all the houses in Series 3 but here are the ones I have identified so far:
- Tapeley Park, Devon [Update: blog post on Tapeley Park episode]
- Kentchurch Court, Herefordshire
- Monreith House, Galloway
- Trereife, Cornwall
- High Elms Manor, Hertfordshire