Living like lords: England's most beautiful estates
British history is replete with examples of brilliant historic architecture. Here are four iconic aristocratic estates worth seeing. Some are open to the public, others you can just... ...rent for the weekend.
Ickworth Ickworth is an estate in eastern England that has belonged to the Harvey family for centuries. The mansion that graces the expanse of Suffolk today was built in the late 18th century by the 4th Earl of Bristol, a philanthropist and intellectual. From his collection, in particular, a sculpture in the antique spirit by the famous 18th-century British sculptor John Flaxman survives. The family inherited the land in the 15th century through a fortunate marriage. The main house has been rebuilt several times from scratch, following the tastes of new generations. The present building, which looks like a magnificent rotunda with two curved wings emerging from it, was the brainchild of the Earl of Bristol after his travels in Europe and embodies the dream of a Renaissance palace (though the architects were from Ireland). The mansion is now open to the public. The east wing is occupied by a hotel. The rest of the building serves as a museum. The Harveys are a well-to-do family, but prefer to live in city apartments rather than an estate.
Codray Park A luxurious 22-bedroom mansion located in West Sussex. It feels like a showpiece - a gentry's estate should be just that. It can be rented for a weekend or a landmark celebration (weddings often take place here). The house is accessed by a wide driveway and surrounded by a park. The stone mansion is a classic example of British post-medieval architecture, with towers and lots of chimneys and fireplaces in almost every room. The interiors are decorated in the spirit of traditional British classics. The historic furnishings are gone, but what are the walls alone! The property is run by a small farm which supplies the guests with the rest of the house's produce. You can arrange a coach to teach you how to play polo (Codray is home to England's most famous polo club).
Erbury hall Lord Deventry's mansion (the family has owned the place for five centuries) was originally designed in the classical sense, but the Elizabethan style didn't suit Sir Roger Newgate, who inherited the house in the mid-18th century, and he redesigned it in his own way. This resulted in an impressive Gothic castle with tall lancet windows and towers in the style of Notre Dame. The property is surrounded by a beautiful English garden. The estate also includes a farm and many technical services. The owners own half of the village and the cottages are happily rented out to many tourists. You can visit the manor house and get a taste of aristocratic life. One of these, now a guest house, was the birthplace of the famous writer George Elliot. And the estate itself is featured in several of her works.
Boughton House. The classic mansion that adorns Boughton Manor in Northamptonshire isn't called the English Versailles for nothing. Stretching across vast, ultra-maintained lawns, the interior of the lavish building reflects the grandeur of the Baroque era, while the collection of art and paintings in particular is worthy of a museum. The mansion is definitely worth a visit, if only for the works of El Greco and Gainsborough.