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The Private Life of a Country House Paperback – 1 May 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (1 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075246051X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752460512
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 462,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Lesley Lewis, born in 1909 as Lesley Lawrence, was educated by governesses at her home, Pilgrims' Hall, near Pilgrims Hatch, Essex. She was one of the founding students of the newly formed Courthauld Institute, London. She was elected to the Society of Antiquaries in 1964, working for the Morris Committee. She also worked tirelessly for the Georgian Group and the Chelsea Society. She was vice-president of the Royal Archaeological Institute and was a trustee of Sir John Soane's museum. Her work for the protection of historic buildings and art work was unfailing. She died in January 2010, aged 100.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 Mar. 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is my desert-island book. Lesley Lewis tells how her memories of family life at her home in Essex from 1912 to 1939 reveal a lifestyle lost to present generations but fascinating to read; she takes us through the house, through the gardens, taking each room or area as a prompt to detail life as it was led at the time, lost to view now, as distant as any history of earlier centuries but far, far more riveting. My copy falls apart through re-reading. If you like history, family life, "how it felt to live like this", what life in a minor country house in England was like so relatively recently, do try this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mazzi on 21 Nov. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A book with lots of specific detail about one house that can then give a good idea about life in similar houses at that time. Lesley Lewis has excellent recall of items available and events that happened in a 'bygone' era. A room by room tour of artifacts and lifestyle....a fascinating read for those curious about smaller country houses and the life within.
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By shelagh on 23 April 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
so very interesting
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Olwen Mattick on 7 April 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think I would have liked it more had the book been correctly bound.
A bunch of pages was doubled up and the correct bundle was missing so that pages numbered 75 to 102 were duplicated.
A pity, because otherwise it read well.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating read 26 Jun. 2010
By Sally Ann Mclean - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book arrived in perfect condition and was a fascinating read.
The book tells of a family's life in a home during an era of forgotten gentility. The story goes into much detail yet the reader is never tempted to skim. The book would serve as an excellent resource for anyone writing fiction or non-fiction and wanting to get the details right of how living was conducted in England between the two world wars.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating and informative tour through a vanished time & place 4 Dec. 2011
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The author, an established art historian and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, was born in 1909 into a professional family, legal men of long standing on one side and military men on the other, who had become part of the minor gentry. (Her paternal aunt was one of the first women Members of Parliament.) Through her 20s, she lived at Pilgrims' Hall in Essex, which she describes as a "minor country house." They regarded themselves as anonymous, very private people, the sort who assiduously avoid the "unspeakably egotistical" first-person pronoun by referring to themselves as "one." Lewis respects this privacy and cultivated lack of domestic drama by focusing here not on the people but on the home itself and on "the things we used." She and her sisters were taught at home by governesses and then packed off to a finishing school in Paris, but this lack of formal, institutional education obviously didn't hurt her. At the age of eighteen, she says, she did what all her contemporaries did, if they could afford it -- hunted "when there was a horse to be had," played tennis, went to dances, and stayed at each other's houses, all of which were run by similar methods. By 1939, though, her studious side had taken over. She was living in the Metropolis and had acquired several degrees from the University of London, and then clerked in the family law firm during WWII.

The book takes the form of a room-by-room tour of the new house to which the family moved when the author was four years old, from the front hall and the drawing room, back through to the bedrooms and schoolroom, out through the kitchen into the small estate and home farm. Often, her description of an tool or piece of furniture (such as the hall table where visiting cards collected) leads to a discussion of social activities (the requirements of formal visits) or to childhood reminiscences (such as her much-coveted permission to do projects in the garden potting shed). Lewis has an amazing memory (or perhaps a well-trained one, given her later profession), aided by numerous line drawings. In addition to material things, she also describes the process of living, growing up, and being home-educated in such a house, all of it clearly and with frequent quiet humor.

The family had only a few servants, Lewis says -- though the staff photo of 1913 shows a group of eleven. The Great War, of course, seriously eroded the whole domestic service system and the second war destroyed it utterly. Lewis describes each of the staff as individuals and outlines their various duties -- which, by this time, overlapped considerably, largely because most of the men had gone off to the army and those who remained had to make do.

This is a excellent overview of life in the lower ranks of the not-quite-upper class and provides a useful companion to the many books on the anthropology of much larger country homes two or three generations earlier.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Re: Lists, lists, lists 2 Oct. 2011
By Charles De Roche - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is a walk through the past offering a detailed glimpse of everyday life in a country house milieu now long since extinct. Rather than presenting a list of anachronistic household objects, as a previously reviewer suggested, Ms. Lewis writes a rather lively narrative of upper middle class life between the wars focusing upon the minutiae of a small country house. Her focus is indeed upon a plethora of everyday household objects; however, the description of each object and its their relationship to her family's routine forms a cohesive narrative of social history rather than a dry page from an academic textbook. I read this book when it first came out some thirty years ago in hardcover and, when I saw it in paperback at a 2nd hand shop, still remembered the title pleasantly enough to purchase it. After re-reading it, I'm very glad I did. This title is certainly for people with an interest in social history (both serious and as a form of escapism) - specifically a first-hand account of how the less fortunate of the Brideshead set lived their lives before the cataclysm of World War II.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Lists lists lists 2 July 2011
By William R. Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
my review title about sums it up. If you want an inventory of a pre WWI country house of a wealthy, non-titled family, this is your book.
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