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Echoing Voices: More Memories of a Country House Snooper [Hardcover]

John Harris
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Nov 2002
In No Voice from the Hall, John Harris recollected his covert entry into empty and deserted country houses in the years after World War II. Here, he now broadens his sights, sometimes straying into Europe or as far off as Malaya and the USA.

This memoir draws together incidents and adventures throughout John Harris' life. We hear of Ruler Matlock who set him against formal education, of his antics during his very short apprenticeship as an upholsterer at Heal's, and of his brief yet profitable curatorship of the Grotto of the Four Walls at the Battersea Pleasure Gardens.

In France in 1953 he is befriended by Richard Penard, the great French collector. He trespasses into the Desert de Retz to find the faded glory of the China House and the Broken Column, and he experiences the Bohemian life of a student on the Left Bank in Paris. At Paul Mellon's Oak Spring, in Virginia, he is awakened by gangsters and we read with astonishment of MI5 bugging Anthony Blunt's rooms above the RIBA's Drawings Collection. As the tales proceed, new comrades join his snooping. With them he shudders at the horrors of the Hazelwood Chuckle House, travels to Czechoslovakia and at Horin discovers the glories of a decayed baroque suite of apartments and meets its custodian, a Polish Hurricane pilot.

This book features many figures from the art and architectural world: Francis Watson, James Lees-Milne, Nikolaus Pevsner, Paul Mellon, Basil Spence and others.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (7 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719564832
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719564833
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.6 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 526,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'Echoing Voices confirms Harris's reputation as a superb raconteur. More importantly, it reminds us of the joy of going to see for oneself, and the thrill of the serendipitous discovery. Trespassing has never been so romantic' (Literary Review 20030201)

About the Author

John Harris was joint organizer of the celebrated 'Destruction of the Country House' exhibition at the Vistoria and Albert Museum in 1974. He has also published many books on architecture, gardens, the decorative arts and architectural drawings. He is now Curator Emeritus of the Royal Institute of British Architects' Drawings Collection. He lives in London and Badminton.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Echoing voices - a successful repeat 25 Mar 2003
If you have an interest in the history of the Country House, this book is a good amusing read. The style is light and the stories varied although you are occasionally left wanting to know what happened next. A few of the chapters are surprisingly short and the author's choice of chapter titles will be considered by some to be rather eccentric but this doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Chris
This is the author's second brilliant and hilarious story of his personal journey around the fading post-WWII Country Estates of Britain in search of Architectural History ... With so many anecdotes along the way too, and fishing, 'antique' 'collecting' etc. Part Two of a Dole-boy 'turned good', after he had joined the 'Establishment' but still retaining his view of the real world as it was.

If you have ever been blocked by a 'Jobsworth' in your quest for British Heritage, then this book and the original 'No Voices from the Hall' are a must.

I'm in awe of the author, and he is my hero, so 'Move Over Pevsner' and 'Move Right In John Harris' - !!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The English are different 14 May 2013
By Cupples Peet - Published on
John Harris is a brilliant architectural historian, but as a memoirist his life leaves a lot to be wished for. The first volume of his memoirs, Voices From an Empty Hall, was a bit dull, but, then, what did one expect from an architectural historian? Riotous dissipation and world-changing events? No. Perhaps Mr. Harris or his publishers recognized the failing because in this book he aimed for humor. Sadly, instead of humor, his anecdotes too often come off as smug and/or condescending. Harris is an intelligent man and, one suspects, a decent human being, but here he seems at pains to reveal his disdain for the artistic tastes of the natives. Some of this, I think, is the difference between English intellectuals and average Americans. If one begins with that premise and/or decides to be generous, Harris's book introduces the reader to little-known architects and houses and a time, now gone by, when English country houses were seldom visited and still broken into parts to be sold as salvage. If his humor falls flat, the view into this past is worth reading.
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