A stately home
is, strictly speaking, one of about 500 large properties built in England
between the mid-16th century and the early part of the 20th century, as well as converted abbeys and other church property (after the Dissolution of the Monasteries
). They are usually distinguished from true "castles", being of a later date and built purely as residences. These houses became a status symbol for the great families of England who competed with each other to provide hospitality for members of the Royal Household. Famous architects
and landscape architects such as Robert Adam
, Sir Charles Barry
, Sir Edwin Lutyens
, Sir John Vanbrugh
, Capability Brown
and Humphrey Repton
were employed to incorporate new styles into the buildings. Great art and furniture collections were built up and displayed in the houses. World War II
changed the fortunes of many houses and their owners, and now there remains a curious mix of living museums, part-ruined houses and castles, and grand family estates.
See: Historic house, Historic houses in England, List of historic houses
The following organisations are responsible for the upkeep of numerous stately homes.
However, many stately homes are owned/managed by private individuals or by trusts. The costs of running a stately home are legendary. Many owners rent out their homes for use as film and television sets as a means of extra income, thus many of them are familiar sights to people who have never visited them in person. The grounds often contain other tourist attractions, such as safari parks, funfairs or museums.
The term stately home is a quotation from the poem The Homes of England originally published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1827 by Felicia Hemans, which begins as follows.
- The stately Homes of England,
- How beautiful they stand,
- Amidst their tall ancestral trees,
- O’er all the pleasant land!
wrote and performed a parody
of the above:
- The stately homes of England we proudly represent,
- We only keep them up for Americans to rent....