The Country House Past, Present, Future

Great British Houses

With their extraordinary histories, grand architecture and interiors, and sublime landscapes, British country houses have long been a subject of fascination to a wide audience. Jeremy Musson, one of Britain’s leading architectural historians, will draw back the curtain on the story of many of Britain’s finest and most important historic homes to offer a fresh look at their significance and meaning. Since the medieval period, the creation of a country house has been fueled by politics and power, and shaped by money, site, available materials, changing building technologies, and personal ambitions and shifting fashions. The country house had many functions—as places of habitation, entertainment, estate administration, and political status—which were traditionally all folded into one solid and glorious material place.

Using the finest new—and old—photographs, as well paintings, prints and drawings, Mr. Musson will take his audience on a revelatory visual journey through the world of the great house, including many important National Trust properties: Cragside, Kingston Lacy, Blickling Hall, and Bodiam Castle, as well as privately-held houses such as Blenheim Palace, Burghley House and Warwick Castle. He will explore the essential skills necessary to build a country house and the aesthetic prestige embedded in their decoration and furnishing, as well as what their libraries and chapels tell us about changing ideas, and how the country estate was arranged for the pursuit of pleasure. He will also look at the state of the country house today and what the future holds for this iconic feature of British culture.

His lecture coincides with the publication of the book he co-edited with Sir David Cannadine, The Country House: Past, Present, Future: Great Houses of The British Isles, co-sponsored by The Royal Oak Foundation, which includes essays by several leading nationally recognized experts exploring the changing identity of the British country house.

This lecture is generously supported by Chris and Laurie Nielsen.

Thank you to our co-sponsors: Rizzoli, American Friends of Attingham, and The Irish Georgian Society, Inc.

The South Front at Blickling Estate, Norfolk. Blickling is a turreted red-brick Jacobean mansion, sitting within beautiful gardens and parkland.

Jeremy Musson

Jeremy Musson

Architectural Historian and Author

Jeremy Musson is a leading commentator and authority on the English Country House. He has this year been elected as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and sits on a number of boards and trusts including the Country House Foundation. He was awarded an M Phil in Renaissance History at the Warburg Institute, University of London, in 1989 and was Architectural Editor of Country Life from 1995-2008. Before joining Country Life in 1995, Mr. Musson was an assistant regional curator for the National Trust in East Anglia, curating historic houses such as Ickworth House, and at the same time setting up the research and interpretation of new sites such as, the ex-bomb testing range and nature reserve at Orford Ness in Suffolk. He has written and edited hundreds of articles on historic country houses, from Garsington Manor to Knebworth House. Mr. Musson also presented 14 programs on BBC 2, making up two series called The Curious House Guest, in 2005-07, and he also lectures and supervises for academic programs with Cambridge University, London University and Buckingham University, and the Attingham Summer School. His books include How to Read a Country House (2007), Up and Down Stairs: The History of the English Country House Servant (2009), English Country House Interiors (2011), and Robert Adam: Country House Design, Decoration & the Art of Elegance (2017). His latest book, The Country House: Past, Present, Future: Great Houses of The British Isles, is due for publication in the US in October 2018.

Past Event

A slight mist rises from the moat at dawn at fourteenth century Bodiam Castle, East Sussex.. ©National Trust Images/David Sellman


Tuesday, October 23 | 6:30 p.m.


The Newberry Library
Rettinger Room

60 West Walton Street


$35 members; $45 non-members

A slight mist rises from the moat at dawn at fourteenth century Bodiam Castle, East Sussex.. ©National Trust Images/David Sellman