English Country House
February 28th, 2013 Power Houses English country houses in the 16th century were also known as “power houses” according to Mark Girouard - English Country House introduction. Along with the amount of land, the English country houses established a sense of social status and wealth. Each house had been laid out carefully to provide an even greater sense of social status to the guest as well. These houses were huge and incredibly lavish. Their main goals were to identify the owner’s social status, to provide entertainment and provide a small “kingdom” of the owners themselves.
In the 1500’s, social status was everything to most people. It defined who you were and what privileges you had, and the houses were a perfect way to display your power. “Essentially they were power houses – the houses of a ruling class… people did not live in country houses unless they either possessed power, or… were making a bid to possess [power]” (Girouard, p. 2). This shows that the social belief was that only the people who lived in a country had power, or were aiming for power. With a “power house”, came a great amount of land, again to show power. Land provided the fuel, a country house was the engine which made it effective” (Girouard, p. 2). The owners would rent out that land to lesser class people and would be able to earn money from them. Some of that rent money was used to remodel and improve the country house to fit the more modern ways of entertaining. “A country house was an expensive piece of plant which needed constant alteration as well as constant maintenance if it were to continue to fulfill its functions” (Girouard, p. 2).
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The target of entertainment is always changing so in order to keep up with the demands, money from rent is good for that. Also with the tenants at the palm of the owners’ hand, he established a small kingdom, to say the least, with an army that will fight for him and voters that will vote for him for they were in debt to him in a way. English country houses are laid out in a way that the private areas are separated from the public areas. For example, the Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire is laid out in that way.
The entrance is a gallery, used for exercise and more common activities. It is filled with various portraits of the “grand” family history, displaying power after power. Then as you get deeper into the house, the rooms become more of a private use. For example, the Queen’s bed chamber lies at the end of the west wing. It is by far the one of the grandest rooms in the house. Only people with very high social status and connections with the owners are allowed to enter such a chamber. English country houses are in fact “power houses” as Mark Girouard described.
They display wealth and social status or a reach for that purpose. Each grand country house is laid out specifically to categorize the social status of each person even more. We still use some of the same concepts today with the private areas and the public areas, but it’s no longer a source of power for us like it was in the 16th century. Works Cited Girouard, Mark. “A Social and Architectural History. ” Life In The English Country House(1978): 2. Yale University. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.