Simon Jenkins's England's Thousand Best Houses
is a sumptuous, encyclopaedic treasure trove of a book--an indispensable guide for anyone who has ever enjoyed nosing around any of England's great abbeys, halls, castles and homes. Retaining the winning, easy-to-use, format of the wonderful bestselling England's Thousand Best Churches
Jenkins has sought out, county by county, the most beautiful, arresting and historically important "houses" (anywhere that anyone has ever laid their head) that we have to offer. From firm family favourites such as Windsor Castle, founded by William the Conqueror; the stunning grandeur of Elizabethan mansion Speke Hall; the triumphal Baroque of Blenheim Palace through and onto smaller, more intimate discoveries such as West Yorkshire's Red House (built for a Georgian cloth merchant and home of Charlotte Bronte's best pal Mary Taylor); and the fine Restoration plasterwork in Hereford's Holme Lacy House.
Jenkins continues a project that Nicolas Pevsner so successfully initiated in his ranging architectural classics. Each entry has a pithily sketched history and is marked out of five and the book is replete with Quintin Wright's excellent photographs: a copy for the home and another for the car would not be outlandish. Inevitably, lovers of England's architectural heritage will have wished Jenkins had included--or written more fulsomely on--their own particular favourite but disagreeing with Jenkins never takes away from the pleasure of this lovely, informative brick of a book. If you are going to give this as a gift, make sure you ask for a copy in return. --Mark Thwaite
'By our houses we define ourselves and by them we are known. The Englishman's home is more than his castle. It is his face, his refuge and his family hearth.' So says Simon Jenkins, who set out to create a list that is almost impossible to concoct - the thousand best houses in England. but by "best", Jenkin's doesn't mean big or grand - best means ambiance, character, that unique feeling of being lovingly lived in. And so his list includes everything from Buckingham Palace (three stars) to a small Georgian house in Spitalfield 9four stars), and castles, rectories, farm cottages and prefabs... All English human life is here to be enjoyed. 'The houses of England,' says Jenkins, 'are a treasure trove, a glory of humanity, a wonder of the world." Alright, he might be lacing it a bit with land of hope and glory and all that, but Jenkins has travelled throughout England, from Cornwall to Cumbria, to choose its most impressive, interesting and unusual houses. Not only does he include a full, rich selection of its great and famous houses and estates, but also presents an eclectic mix from the many thousands of towers, castles, halls, abbeys, cottages, private homes - even schools and prisons - of the country. From Blenheim Palace to Milton's Cottage, from Chatsworth to John Lennon's childhood home, from Spencer House to a tiny hop-pickers' shack in Kent, every architectural style and period is included, and setting for almost every kind of English life. Jenkins' only criteria are interest, distinction, and that the property should be open to the public. Check it out. You never know, your gaffe might be there!