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The Edwardian Country House: A Social and Architectural History [Hardcover]

Clive Aslet
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Nov 2012

The magnificent country houses built in Britain between 1890 and 1939 were the last monuments to a vanishing age. Many of these great mammoths of domestic architecture were unsuited to the changes in economic and social priorities that followed the two world wars, and rapidly became extinct. Those that survive, however, provide tangible evidence of the life and death of an extraordinarily prosperous age.

Originally published in 1980, long out of print and now thoroughly revised and reillustrated, this book recounts the architectural and social history of the era, describing the clients, the architects, the styles and accoutrements of the country houses. The people who could afford them - the Carnegies, the Astors, the Leverhulmes - had grown rich by exploiting the new economic opportunities of the age, and the houses they built in the years before the First World War reflect the desire for two contrasting ways of life. The social country house was the setting for the opulent world associated with Edward VII. The romantic country house was simpler, more genuinely rural, for those who wanted to be in closer contact with the countryside and the vanishing rural crafts, or who wanted an idyll of the past that did not suggest the world of the motor car. These traditions lost coherence after the war, and the period ended with a number of spectacular, and often eccentric, houses. Some of the most remarkable were those that not only replicated the look of old buildings, but used genuinely old materials and even incorporated whole Tudor buildings moved from other places.

Clive Aslet writes of the immense changes in the way country houses of this period were lived in and used. The shortage of servants, aggravated by the First World War, spurred numerous developments in the technology of the country house - vacuum cleaners, washing machines, telephones and central heating were called upon to replace the army of servants who never returned from the trenches or the factories. Interior decorators, becoming increasingly in vogue, developed the style Louis Seize into the last word in Edwardian chic. Gardens came to be seen as integral to the concept of the country house and reconciled formal planning with informal planting.

This fascinating world, so popularly depicted in Downton Abbey, can now be viewed from a new perspective. The Edwardian Country House will enlighten and entertain all those interested in glimpsing the lost life style of another age.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln; Revised edition (15 Nov 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071123339X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711233393
  • Product Dimensions: 31 x 25.9 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 426,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'This fascinating world, so popularly depicted in Downton Abbey, can now be viewed from a new perspective and wioll delight those with an interest in glimpsing the lost lifelstyle of another age.'

(Listed Heritage)

'An erudite but accessible study of a bygone era.'

(Good Book Guide)

About the Author

CLIVE ASLET is an award-winning writer and journalist, acknowledged as a leading authority on Britain and its way of life. In 1977 he joined the magazine Country Life, where he was Editor for 13 years, and is now Editor at Large. He writes extensively for papers such as the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times, and often broadcasts on television and radio. A well-known campaigner on the countryside and other issues, he has studied the debate about climate change since attending the Kyoto Protocol negotiations in 1997.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reissue of the Last Country Houses 1 Nov 2012
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The preface states : This book is a new edition of the Last Country Houses published in 1982 and the Amazon book description starts with: Originally published in 1980, long out of print and now thoroughly revised and re-illustrated. The reality is that this book was indeed published in 1982, but this new edition is certainly not thoroughly revised. As stated truthfully by the author, the text is largely the same as that which appeared in 1982 and that is a shame since much more information on this period is presently available. The re-illustration is not much of an improvement, the majority of pictures still being in black and white and not of a better quality. The size of the book has however increased considerably and is now a true coffee table book. The last Chapter "Catalogue", with information on all houses, has unfortunately been deleted, instead of giving it the much required update. All in all a missed opportunity!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating in several dimensions 7 Jan 2013
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Clive Aslet looks at his subject from so many angles that this book not only illustrates his chosen themes well but carries the reader through a fascinating look at the lives of his houses' occupants
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4.0 out of 5 stars Edwardian Insight 12 Dec 2012
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This book gave me the information I wanted in an attractive way Some of the houses were lovely to live in
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Second edition of an earlier title 21 Nov 2012
By Bob Healy - Published on Amazon.com
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This is a beautiful and well produced book with many wonderful images. Purchasers should be aware however, that is is a revised and expanded edition of "The Last Country Houses" published in 1985. I did not find that out until I read the preface in the new volume. While it is considerably expanded, with new illustrations and in a much larger format, it nonetheless covers the same territory, and much of the material is the same. Had I known that initially I would not have purchased the book, thus the reason for three stars. It would merit five had the fact that it is a revision rather than a new title been more clearly stated.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful book. Clive Aslet, with his history at Country Life Magazine, is the gold standard for this sugject. 28 May 2013
By Anthony E. Frederick - Published on Amazon.com
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There have been a couple of books published lately on the Country House. Clive Aslet's book is the perfect addition to libraries
of country house studies since this new work along with The Last Country Houses, his book from a couple of decades ago, give insight into the conditions which brought on the crumbling of the country house culture, and the mad, over-the-top edifices of the last gasp.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Documentary of the Golden Years 18 Feb 2013
By William G. Troiano - Published on Amazon.com
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This book is an excellent documentary of the Golden Years of the Edwardian country house. If you love Downton Abby, this book is well worth purchasing.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Background on Early 20th Century Residential Architecture in England 19 Aug 2014
By The Devoted Classicist - Published on Amazon.com
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It is quite a good book, but there are some warnings. First, it is an expanded edition of Aslet's 1982 book THE LAST COUNTRY HOUSES which took a lot of criticism for the title because there are still magnificent classical houses being built in the English countryside. Second, there is nothing about Eyford Park, pictured on the cover, within the text, only two additional photos. For more about the new country houses such as Ferne Park and about Eyford Park in particular, search my blog The Devoted Classicist.

With more a scholarly approach rather than a typical 'coffee table' book, the chapters are divided according to topics rather than subjects, meaning information about a particular house is scattered over several chapters rather than going through one house at a time. But THE EDWARDIAN COUNTRY HOUSE is worth reading cover-to-cover for a better understanding of this period in residential architecture, so that is not so much an issue. It is a lot more than just the Upstairs Downstairs aspect of 'Downton Abbey' sort of houses; there is an academic yet understandable presentation of the era.
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