From an acclaimed social and architectural historian, the tumultuous, scandalous, glitzy, and glamorous history of English country houses and high society during the interwar period
As WWI drew to a close, change reverberated through the halls of England's country homes. As the sun set slowly on the British Empire, the shadows lengthened on the lawns of a thousand stately homes.
In The Long Weekend, historian Adrian Tinniswood introduces us to the tumultuous, scandalous and glamorous history of English country houses during the years between World Wars. As estate taxes and other challenges forced many of these venerable houses onto the market, new sectors of British and American society were seduced by the dream of owning a home in the English countryside. Drawing on thousands of memoirs, letters, and diaries, as well as the eye-witness testimonies of belted earls and bibulous butlers, Tinniswood brings the stately homes of England to life as never before, opening the door to a world by turns opulent and ordinary, noble and vicious, and forever wrapped in myth. We are drawn into the intrigues of legendary families such as the Astors, the Churchills and the Devonshires as they hosted hunting parties and balls that attracted the likes of Charlie Chaplin, T.E. Lawrence, and royals such as Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. We waltz through aristocratic soirées, and watch as the upper crust struggle to fend off rising taxes and underbred outsiders, property speculators and poultry farmers. We gain insight into the guilt and the gingerbread, and see how the image of the country house was carefully protected by its occupants above and below stairs.
Through the glitz of estate parties, the social tensions between old money and new, the hunting parties, illicit trysts, and grand feasts, Tinniswood offers a glimpse behind the veil of these great estates--and reveals a reality much more riveting than the dream.
English writer and historian Tinniswood (The Rainborowes) elegantly explores the glamorous interwar age of English rural getaways, revealing the not-so-secret affairs of the inhabitants and the reinterpretation of architectural and interior design (particularly the "Wrenaissance" style of the Edwardian Baroque). In the years between the World Wars, sprawling country houses returned to fashion thanks to burgeoning railroad travel. The English nobility and even royalty, such as the future Edward VIII enjoyed their minipalace getaways, and soon the trend caught on with the nouveau riche in particular Americans such as William Randolph Hearst, with his "English" castle in Wales. Plenty of famous and infamous people frequented these weekend homes, but Tinniswood provides little background to make non-British readers unaware of some of the ironies such as the sight of the revolutionary Gore-Booth sisters in their own Anglo-Irish country house. Instead, Tinniswood's examination complete with gorgeous images centers on architecture and design; he admires quality no matter the style and notes where it's missing, especially where a new spouse muddled a project's coherence. Tinniswood's lovely chronological ode to a past lifestyle brims with tales of the elite's tumultuous weekends and shows how the country house's purpose changed with the times as the old social order came to a close. Photos.