Why?

It has been said that Britain's greatest contribution to the history of architecture is that of our country houses. Millions of people every year visit the stately homes that either through good fortune, wise management, the National Trust or sheer good luck managed to avoid demolition. As a nation we are now proud of these monuments to our past. However, many didn't survive. Whilst some houses are inevitably lost to urban development and fire, in a previous, less conservation-minded age, the greatest danger was that there were few limits as to what the owners did with their properties. Houses which had been passed down through many years, and the associated family collections, could be lost within a generation.

The reasons are varied; many became unaffordable as agricultural or mining incomes fell or due to heavy inheritance tax demands, industrial development blighted others, sometimes it was all gambled away, others just did not care about the preservation of their houses or, in some cases, acted with almost staggering contempt, selling these architectural monuments off for scrap. Luckily, many of the worst practices are now illegal but there are still ways for unscrupulous owners to destroy these unique parts of our nation's heritage.

Whilst I am fascinated and deeply saddened by the loss of these houses, I am angry that we still allow many other fine houses to decay and be lost. Hopefully by highlighting those we have already lost, we will appreciate more those that remain, and fight harder to save those under threat.

How?

The site lists the many significant English country houses which have been demolished or severely reduced. Though it mainly focuses on those lost since 1800, houses which were lost before then may also appear in the list. A majority of those listed would now be classified as Grade I, Grade II* or II - but others have been also included where they were likely to be of importance within a local area. These houses range in style from the smaller manor houses to the Classical mansions to the vast Victorian Gothic palaces. The aim is to list and provide an 'architectural biography' comprising a full history including who built the house, when and why it was demolished and to have an image of the house - be it a photo or a print.

The list also uses the county names and geographical boundaries from before the 1972 local government re-organisation which removed or significantly altered many of the historic counties. Much of the research and documentation relating to the houses naturally refers to the pre-1972 boundaries, locations and names so I have kept to these also.

Views and opinions are my own. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

Matthew Beckett

This website is dedicated to John Harris, Marcus Binney, Sir Roy Strong, Peter Reid and Giles Worsley.