An Antiquarian's Tale, Issue 75

Clinton Howell Antiques - April 27, 2020 - Issue 75

An Appreciation of English Antique Furniture

A semi biographical journey of my life in the English Decorative Arts

The English country house and their owners have almost a mythic quality as the true home of a type of British-ness that surpasses all understanding. The diffidence of the upper classes is legendary and is related in novel after novel, beginning with Fanny Burney and Jane Austen and running right through to Downtown Abbey. The upper classes are famous for their seeming oblivious regard to any and all peoples save for the ones who make their lives work and even they are barely tolerated. This view is, of course, unfair, but there is, without doubt, some truth in fiction. Having met the late departed Marquess of Bath, I can say that truth and the fiction align readily and without any embarrassment.

Britain as been a land of unequal wealth distribution in perpetuum and that is most evident in the housing that has been built for the last one thousand years. What that means is that there are some extraordinary homes that continue to exist in the British Isles, many of which I have not visited, because they are not open to the public. I have, however, visited a great many houses that are open to the public and which have either good gardens or good furniture and I have endeavored to visit many of them, often five or six times over. I find that there is always some new detail that I can notice as I mentioned in my blog of last week.

Herewith, I will endeavor to go through a number of the houses I have visited over the years, I will endeavor not to be a guide book, but instead provide the reason why I visited a particular place. You may also note that plenty of the houses I visited were near some spectacular sites which I did not visit. My only excuse was time and the visiting hours of many places. In some cases, however, I did make the time. For example, I went to visit Erddig near Wrexham in North Wales and realized that the very famous gardens of Bodnant were close by and that the most famous feature, the laburnum arch would be in bloom and that it would be criminal not to see it. I did not do this often, but in this case, I had to--the photo of the laburnum arch is in all the guide books and it is spectacular. But it was Erddig (pronounced ur-thig) that I went to see and it will be the subject of next week's blog.