The World of the Country House in Seventeenth-Century England

J. T. Cliffe

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This engaging and beautifully illustrated book takes us back to the domestic world of the landed gentry in seventeenth-century England. Relating countless stories and case histories drawn from a wide range of primary sources, the book describes the physical environment, staffing, and functioning of gentry households, the inhabitants and their activities, and the role of these houses in the social and economic life of their localities.

J. T. Cliffe begins by exploring the exterior and interior of houses and the outbuildings, parks, and gardens that surrounded them. He then investigates the people who lived in the country houses and the relationships between them. He provides colorful details about the responsibilities of the squire and his wife; the duties, remuneration, food, clothing, accommodation, and treatment of servants; and the special duties of estate stewards, coachmen, chaplains, and tutors. Cliffe explains various aspects of housekeeping, such as the tradition of hospitality and the factors militating against it. He also discusses other kinds of activity: religious practices; outdoor sports and indoor pastimes, including music and billiards; and such intellectual pursuits as antiquarian research, poetry, and scientific experiments. He concludes with a fascinating survey of scandal in the world of the gentry, telling of domestic strife, financial disaster, lunacy, and other disasters that marred this idyllic existence.

J. T. Cliffe is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the Institute of Historical Research at London University. He is the author of a number of books and articles on aspects of seventeenth-century history.

"There is a wealth of information here about how such households were organized—what paintings might be seen on the walls, how many servants were in attendance, what trees grew in the orchards, what entertainments might be offered to the surrounding community, and—in general—what life in such houses must have been like."—Stanley Abercrombie, Interior Design

"This book identifies a small section of social and architectural history that has, until now, escaped the attention of those many authors who have made country house studios into a distinct publishing industry. . . . We are offered a rich and revealing insight into the family lives of Cliffe’s gentlemen and discover how their estates were organised and how the various component parts functioned."—Dan Cruickshank, Architects Journal

ISBN: 9780300076431
Publication Date: July 11, 1999
240 pages, 7 7/8 x 10 1/8
77 b/w + 35 color illus.