The house visitor’s kit

I’m not overly electronic so don’t rely on apps and the like.  However, with a few resources I’m able supply myself enough architecture to keep me happy:

  • some membership cards – yes I am a life member of the National Trust – it gets me and one other in for free to NT properties for the rest of my life!

I have corporate HHA membership and occasionally have had RHS, English Heritage and Art Fund membership.  However, I’m not as interested in EH’s ruins as the NT’s complete houses.

Other sources

This means I’ve got a long list of houses to be getting on with.

Right now I’m busy visiting all the houses that I can get into with my memberships and it takes a special one, such as Chatsworth, for me to pay to get in.  There are, however, some modern classical houses that I would pay dearly to get into, such as Ferne Park

Maybe in the years to come when hopefully I’ll have visited most of the HHA and NT properties, I’ll combine houses with ruins and sites, taking inspiration from Jeremy Musson and John Harris.  I might even turn to Pevsner.  Who knows…

I would be delighted to hear of any other invaluable sources of information but thought I’d share with you my kit.


6 thoughts on “The house visitor’s kit

  1. NO, I’M SORRY MY BLOG IS IN ITALIAN. I enjoy SOME THINGS IN WRITING ENGLISH. TRANSLATION OF YOU REFER TO GOOGLE. I love your blog,I like and I appreciate your blog!!! I am also a follower of your now!!!

  2. Two Stars of English Heritage must be Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire and Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire.
    I had vague memories of a rather boring Ancient Monuments guide book of my parents on the former and only visited it because another place was closed.
    How things had changed! I was bowled over by the incredible Italian Renaissance Palazzo – now partially roofless – set amidst very English countryside. The free audio guide really made a huge difference leaving the eyes free to take it all in rather than read room notes. I joined EH on the spot.
    Bolsover has a similar combination of roofless grand buildings adjoining fully functioning ones (again with a good guide). Apart from incredulity at the actions of a family simply taking the roof off an incredible wing to finance work on another house, I was glad that the little Castle with it’s painted interior survived. (Thank science for digital cameras with their command of low light levels and almost-free picture taking).

    If you get the chance, try dipping into “English Homes” by H. Avray Tipping. Written in the 1920’s and up to his death in 1933 – the final volume (adding extra houses to Periods 1 & 2) is postumously published – it presents a look at some of the great houses on the verge of financial destruction. The pictures of the interiors are amazingly clear and very large (the books are in Elephant folio) and the scholarship on each house is combined with prose reminiscent of the great 19th century travellers…Seaton Delaval is approached by sailing ship on a storny night! Happily a lot of the houses still survive. Tipping gives a a far more comprehensive introduction to the house than most guidebooks can manage.

    1. Thank you for these tips Ian. I haven’t been such a fan of ruins as complete houses and their contents so have avoided joniing EH. I do, however, happily visit their places that are included as part of Art Fund membership and recently visited to Marble Hill House and Audley End. Last year I went to Eltham Palace and Ranger’s House. I always imagine that one day I will turn to ruins. You’ll no doubt also have found Matthew Beckett’s site – Country Houses – where he certainly talks about financial distruction. I like “No Voice from the Hall” by John Harris and “Echoing Voices” following that up and wish I had been there in the 1950s to visit so many wonderful houses too in their final days.

  3. Have you read James Lees-Milne’s diaries? Absolutely superb. He was the Secretary at the National Trust in the early days, when they first started acquiring country houses. JL-M would go and inspect the properties to see if they were up to scratch etc – very informative and very amusing. The Diaries run from the early 1940’s until his death in 1997. Some of the later hardbacks are still available, published by John Murray. All are available as paperbacks, published by Clocktower. See Amazon. I am currently in the process of re-reading them and noting down all the houses he visits – there are hundreds!

    1. I haven’t but thanks for the pointer. What a job. I’ve just bought “Some Country Houses and their Owners” ( and will see how I get on. Alas, I have so many books to read: I’m having a new bespoke bookcase made in the hope that if I can see them I can work my way through them. I always have about 5 on the go.

      I’d love to get paid to wander around houses but nowadays everyone is a journalist and how many people can Country Life employ? I think I should stick to the day job and keep the hobby for fun.

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