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4.5 out of 5 stars
14
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 7 July 2017
Most interesting and enjoyable read.
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on 17 February 2013
This is a most engaging and astonishing tale - and packed with colourful anecdotes stranger than a novelist would dare to invent. The focus is not on Sledmere House nor its servant community but chiefly on the extraordinary behaviour of a larger than life, eccentric and dysfunctional aristocratic family. It's the post 1850 section, about which more sensational detail is available, which I found most interesting.

It's written - with much affection - by a member of Sledmere House's Sykes family dynasty. It tells of a world where children can build their own giant forts in the parental acres, commission a working guillotine for their French Revolution re-enactments in the cellars, and from their nursery galleries catch whispers of the many bulky skeletons in the adults' closets. It's a tale of vast wealth from this racehorse-mad Yorkshire Wolds estate, utterly feudal power over a community, and one severely dysfunctional father after another. Madness and marriages from hell, sewerage systems likewise from hell, spectacular alcoholism and adultery, heroin and homosexuality, boundless extravagance and appalling parental and marital cruelty - this is the stuff of this everyday tale of Country folk. And somehow the Sykes do each dreadful deed with some original twist which keeps the story riveting to read.

There are many entertaining anecdotes. When a Sykes lord dies in a smart London hotel, the management seek to remove his body in a special hollow sofa, kept for this purpose, lest other guests be alarmed. A guest at Sledmere breaks an antique chair, accidentally and unseen. Terrified of his host's notorious rages, he hides the chair then sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night to chop it up and burn it without trace in the fireplace. There are many tales of a Sykes who's a compelling candidate for Upper Class Twit of All Time. He's the helpless serial victim of endless cruel practical jokes, played on him by super-rich aristocrats whom he hosts lavishly till they bankrupt him.

Yet the saga is told truly with affection. A positive light is cast on family doings wherever possible - though often that's a tall order! I suspect that quite a bit of bad news is held back here about how these Lords of the Manor treated their minions and tenants. Because I know Sledmere, I can tell you that this book glaringly avoids mentioning the notorious `Waggoners' Memorial' to the First World War, which the Sykes have placed on the main road outside Sledmere House. Its depictions of Germans are so brutal that both British Foreign Office and German government unsuccessfully tried to get the Sykes to tone it down. But I'll still give this book Five Stars though. For behind such omissions presumably there lies the very same affection by the author for his family which gives this book a lot of its energy, charm and colour.
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on 14 February 2015
I lived very near to Sledmere House and spent many happy hours with my dogs in the grounds. Christopher Sykes has written several books about the history of the family. I would suggest you buy them, totally delightful and unpretentious. Great read
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on 6 September 2013
Sledmere House in the East Yorkshire Wolds has been in the same family since the 17th Century, and is still a private agricultural and sporting estate. A magical place brought alive by Christopher Sykes' marvellous book
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on 15 November 2010
This was a book recommended to me, and I must say I could not put it down once I had started. The author goes into quite minute details of family life in the Big House, which includes not just the day to day happenings but all their staff and some of the villagers too. A great social history of the times.
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on 2 May 2016
A well written biography of the successive generations that created and occupied Sledmere, but very little about the house itself. There are few pictures of the house, no plan, and only a brief description.
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on 4 March 2016
Christopher Sykes is a great author - got several of his books and his research is brilliant. A fascinating story about the Sykes family of Sledmere. Recommended reading for history fanatics.
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on 5 June 2012
Sledmere house is local to me and I was enthralled with this book. Completely disagree with the previous negative review and could not recommend more highly. If you live in the area or have ever visited Sledmere House you will be gripped from start to finish as was I.
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on 21 November 2015
After going to Quarry Bank Mill on a recent trip it was marvellous to be able to purchase the book. An excellent read. Thank you
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on 27 October 2014
Thought it would be more in depth. But an enjoyable read
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