One thing England is known for are its many fine stately homes and manor houses. They’ve had a troubled history in the last century as families have been forced to sell them off or donate them to the National Trust. Many have even been demolished. That being said there are still many beautiful stately homes left to visit in England – the types of buildings you think of when you imagine England.
From homes that were featured in films and TV shows to houses that played major parts in history – here is our list of the Top 11 best Stately Homes in England. We’ve pulled the most amazing pictures from Flickr that we can find and have also put in Trivia bout each home from Wikipedia, along with the location and website link for each Stately Home.
Please keep in mind this post if focused solely on the top Stately Homes and Manor Houses in England, we plan to do posts for Scotland and Wales in the future.
This palace is best known as the shooting location of the classic British TV series Brideshead Revisited as well as the recent film adaptation.
Castle Howard is a stately home in North Yorkshire, England, 15 miles (24 km) north of York. One of the grandest private residences in Britain, most of it was built between 1699 and 1712 for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, to a design by Sir John Vanbrugh. It is not a true castle: The word is often used for English country houses constructed after the castle-building era (c.1500) and not intended for a military function.
Castle Howard has been the home of part of the Howard family for more than 300 years. It is familiar to television and movie audiences as the fictional â€œBridesheadâ€, both in Granada Television’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and a two-hour 2008 remake for theatres. Today, it is part of the Treasure Houses of England heritage group.
Location: North Yorkshire
Website: Castle Howard Website
Built by the victorious 1st Duke of Marlborough – Blenheim Palace is best known now as the birthplace of Winston Churchill, who was born there in 1874.
Blenheim Palace is a large and monumental country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England. It is the only non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England’s largest houses, was built between 1705 and circa 1724. UNESCO recognised the palace as a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Its construction was originally intended to be a gift to John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough from a grateful nation in return for military triumph against the French and Bavarians at the Battle of Blenheim. However, it soon became the subject of political infighting, which led to Marlborough’s exile, the fall from power of his Duchess, and irreparable damage to the reputation of the architect Sir John Vanbrugh.
Designed in the rare, and short-lived, English Baroque style, architectural appreciation of the palace is as divided today as it was in the 1720s. It is unique in its combined usage as a family home, mausoleum and national monument. The palace is also notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.
The building of the palace was a minefield of political intrigue by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. Following the palace’s completion, it became the home of the Churchill family for the following 300 years, and various members of the family have in that period wrought various changes, in the interiors, park and gardens. At the end of the 19th century, the palace and the Churchills were saved from ruin by an American marriage. Thus, the exterior of the palace remains in good repair and exactly as completed.
Website: Official Blenheim Palace Website
Longleat is mostly now known for it’s safari park – touted as the first outside of Africa.
Longleat is an English country house, currently the seat of the Marquesses of Bath, adjacent to the village of Horningsham and near the towns of Warminster in Wiltshire and Frome in Somerset. It is noted for its Elizabethan country house, maze, landscaped parkland and safari park. The house is set in over 900 acres (364 ha) of parkland, landscaped by Capability Brown, with 8,000 acres (32.37 km2) of woods and farmland. It was the first stately home to open to the public, and also claims the first safari park outside Africa.
The house was built by Sir John Thynne, and designed mainly by Robert Smythson, after the original priory was destroyed by fire in 1567. It took 12 years to complete and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain. Longleat is currently occupied by Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, a direct descendant of the builder.
Website: Official Longleat Website
Photo from Wikipedia
It is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and has been home to his family, the Cavendish family, since Bess of Hardwick settled at Chatsworth in 1549. You’ll recognize it at Darcy’s house in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
In the early 20th century social change and taxes began to affect the Devonshires’ lifestyle. When the 8th Duke died in 1908 over £500,000 of death duties became due. This was a small charge compared to what was to follow forty-two years later, but the estate was already burdened with debt accumulated from the 6th Duke’s extravagances, the failure of the 7th Duke’s business ventures at Barrow-in-Furness, and the depression in British agriculture which had been apparent since the 1870s. In 1912 the family sold twenty-five books printed by William Caxton and a collection of 1,347 volumes of plays which had been acquired by the 6th Duke, including four Shakespeare folios and thirty-nine Shakespeare quartos, to the Huntington Library in California. Tens of thousands of acres of land in Somerset, Sussex and Derbyshire were also sold during, and immediately after, World War I. In 1920 the family’s London mansion, Devonshire House, which occupied a 3 acres (12,000 m2) site on Piccadilly, was sold to developers and demolished. Much of the contents of Devonshire House was moved to Chatsworth and a much smaller house at 2 Carlton Gardens near The Mall was acquired. The Great Conservatory in the garden at Chatsworth was demolished as it needed ten men to run it, huge quantities of coal to heat it, and all the plants had died during the war when no coal had been available for non-essential purposes. To further reduce running costs, there was also talk of pulling down the 6th Duke’s north wing, which was then regarded as having no aesthetic or historical value, however, nothing came of it. Chiswick House, the celebrated Palladian villa in the suburbs of West London which the Devonshires had inherited when the 4th Duke had married Lord Burlington’s daughter was sold to Brentford Council in 1929.
Nonetheless, life at Chatsworth continued much as before. The household was run by a comptroller and domestic staff were still available, although more so in the country than in the cities. The staff at Chatsworth at this time consisted of a butler, under butler, groom of the chambers, valet, three footmen, a housekeeper, the Duchess’s maid, eleven housemaids, two sewing women, a cook, two kitchen maids, a vegetable maid, two or three scullery maids, two stillroom maids, a dairy maid, six laundry maids and the Duchess’s secretary. All of these thirty-eight or thirty-nine people lived in the house. Daily staff included the odd man, upholsterer, scullery-maid, two scrubbing women, laundry porter, steam boiler man, coal man, two porter’s lodge attendants, two night firemen, night porter, two window cleaners, and a team of joiners, plumbers and electricians. The Clerk of Works supervised the maintenance of the house and other properties on the estate. There were also grooms, chauffeurs and gamekeepers. The number of garden staff was somewhere between the eighty of the 6th Duke’s time and the twenty or so of the early 21st century. There was also a librarian, Francis Thompson, who wrote the first book-length account of Chatsworth since the 6th Duke’s handbook.
Most of the UK’s country houses were put to institutional use during World War II. Some of those which were used as barracks were badly damaged, but the 10th Duke, anticipating that schoolgirls would make better tenants than soldiers, arranged for Chatsworth to be occupied by Penrhos College, a girls’ public school in Colwyn Bay, Wales. The school later merged with Rydal School to become Rydal Penrhos a co-educational private school. The contents of the house were packed away in eleven days and 300 girls and their teachers moved in for a six-year stay. The whole of the house was used, including the state rooms which were turned into dormitories. Condensation from the breath of the sleeping girls caused fungus to grow behind some of the pictures. The house was not very comfortable for so many people, with a shortage of hot water, but there were compensations, such as skating on the Canal Pond. The girls grew vegetables in the garden as a contribution to the war effort.
In 1944 Kathleen Kennedy, sister of John F. Kennedy, married William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, the elder son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire. However, he was killed in action in Belgium later in 1944, and Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1948. His younger brother Andrew became the 11th Duke in 1950. He was married to Deborah Mitford, one of the Mitford girls and sister to Nancy Mitford, Diana Mitford, Pamela Mitford, Unity Mitford and Jessica Mitford
Website: Official Chatsworth Website
Also played Darcy’s home in the 1995 BBC Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.
Lyme Park is a large estate located south of Disley, Cheshire, England (grid reference SJ964823). It consists of a mansion house surrounded by formal gardens, in a deer park in the Peak District National Park. The house is the largest in Cheshire, and a Grade I listed building.
The estate was granted to Sir Thomas Danyers in 1346 and passed to the Leghs of Lyme by marriage in 1388. It remained in the possession of the Legh family until 1946 when it was given to the National Trust. The house dates from the latter part of the 16th century. Modifications were made to it in the 1720s by Giacomo Leoni, who retained some of the Elizabethan features and added others, particularly the courtyard and the south range. It is difficult to classify Leoni’s work at Lyme, as it contains elements of both Palladian and Baroque styles. Further modifications were made by Lewis Wyatt in the 19th century, especially to the interior. Formal gardens were created and developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The house, gardens and park have been used as locations for filming and they are open to the public. The Lyme Caxton Missal is on display in the library.
Website: Official Lyme Park Website
One of Britain’s best loved Stately Homes, Hardwick Hall was the second home for the Duchess of Devonshire.
Hardwick Hall, in Derbyshire, is one of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England. In common with its architect Robert Smythson’s other works at both Longleat House and Wollaton Hall, Hardwick Hall is one of the earliest examples of the English interpretation of the Renaissance style of architecture, which came into fashion when it was no longer thought necessary to fortify one’s home.
Hardwick Hall is situated on a hilltop between Chesterfield and Mansfield, overlooking the Derbyshire countryside. The house was designed for Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury and ancestress of the Dukes of Devonshire, by Robert Smythson in the late 16th century and remained in that family until it was handed over to HM Treasury in lieu of Estate Duty in 1956. The Treasury transferred the house to the National Trust in 1959. As it was a secondary residence of the Dukes of Devonshire, whose main country house was nearby Chatsworth, it was little altered over the centuries and indeed, from the early 19th century, its antique atmosphere was consciously preserved.
Hardwick is a conspicuous statement of the wealth and power of Bess of Hardwick, who was the richest woman in England after Queen Elizabeth I herself. It was one of the first English houses where the great hall was built on an axis through the center of the house rather than at right angles to the entrance. Each of the three main storeys is higher than the one below, and a grand, winding, stone staircase leads up to a suite of state rooms on the second floor, which includes one of the largest long galleries in any English house and a little-altered, tapestry-hung great chamber with a spectacular plaster frieze of hunting scenes. The windows are exceptionally large and numerous for the 16th century and were a powerful statement of wealth at a time when glass was a luxury, leading to the saying, “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall” (or, in another version, “more window than wall’). There is a large amount of fine tapestry and furniture from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A remarkable feature of the house is that much of the present furniture and other contents are listed in an inventory dating from 1601.
Hardwick Hall contains a large collection of embroideries, mostly dating from the late 16th century, many of which are listed in the 1601 inventory. Some of the needlework on display in the house incorporates Bess’s monogram “ES”, and may have been worked on by Bess herself.
Hardwick is open to the public. It has a fine garden, including herbaceous borders, a vegetable and herb garden, and an orchard. The extensive grounds also contain Hardwick Old Hall, a slightly earlier house which was used as guest and service accommodation after the new hall was built. The Old Hall is now a ruin. It is administered by English Heritage on behalf of the National Trust and is also open to the public.
Website: Official Hardwick Hall Website
Alnwick Castle is best known as the filming location for the interiors of the Harry Potter films. It’s also famous for it’s poison garden – a garden specially cultivated with dangerous plants.
Yves de Vescy, Baron of Alnwick, erected the first parts of the castle in 1096. It was built to defend England’s northern border against the Scottish invasions and border reivers. It was besieged in 1172 and again in 1174 by William the Lion, King of Scotland and William was captured outside the walls during the Battle of Alnwick. In 1309 it was bought from Antony Bek the Bishop of Durham by Henry de Percy, 1st Baron Percy and it has been owned by the Percy family, the Earls and later Dukes of Northumberland since then. The first Percy lord of Alnwick restored the castle and the Abbot’s Tower, the Middle Gateway and the Constable’s Tower survive from this period. In 1404-5 the Percys rebelled against Henry IV, who besieged and then took the castle.
During the Wars of the Roses it was held against King Edward until its surrender in mid-September 1461 after the Battle of Towton. Re-captured by Sir William Tailboys during the winter he surrendered to Hastings, Sir John Howard and Sir Ralph Grey of Heton in late July 1462. Grey was appointed captain but surrendered after a sharp siege in the early autumn. King Edward responded with vigour and when the Earl of Warwick arrived in November Queen Margaret and her French advisor, Pierre de BrÃ©zÃ© were forced to sail to Scotland for help. They organised a mainly Scots relief force which, under George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus and de BrÃ©zÃ©, set out on 22 November. Warwick’s army, commanded by the experienced Earl of Kent and the recently pardoned Lord Scales, prevented news getting through to the starving garrisons. As a result the nearby Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles soon agreed terms and surrendered. But Hungerford and Whittingham held Alnwick until Warwick was forced to withdraw when de Breze and Angus arrived on 5 January 1463.
The Lancastrians missed a great chance to bring Warwick to battle instead being content to retire, leaving behind only a token force which surrendered next day.
By May 1463 Alnwick was in Lancastrian hands for the third time since Towton, betrayed by Grey of Heton who tricked the commander, Sir John Astley. Astley was imprisoned and Hungerford resumed command.
After Montagu’s triumphs at Hedgeley Moor and Hexham in 1464 Warwick arrived before Alnwick on 23 June and received its surrender next day.
The 6th Earl of Northumberland carried out renovations in the 16th century. In the second half of the 18th century Robert Adam carried out many alterations. The interiors were largely in a Strawberry Hill[disambiguation needed] gothic style not at all typical of his work, which was usually neoclassical. However in the 19th century Algernon, 4th Duke of Northumberland replaced much of this with less ostentatious architecture designed by Anthony Salvin. According to the official website a large amount of Adam’s work survives, but little or none of it remains in the principal rooms shown to the public, which were redecorated in an opulent Italianate style in the Victorian era by Luigi Canina.
Website: Official Alnwick Castle Website
Most famous for it’s beautiful gardens.
In 1240, a manor house was built on the site of Somerleyton Hall by Sir Peter Fitzosbert whose daughter married into the Jernegan family. The male line of the Fitzosberts ended, and the Jernegans held the estate until 1604 when John Wentworth bought it. He transformed Somerleyton Hall into a typical East Anglian Tudor-Jacobean mansion. It then passed to the Garney family. The next owner was Admiral Sir Thomas Allin, a native of Lowestoft. He took part in the Battle of Lowestoft (1665) and the Battle of Solebay at Southwold in 1672. Eventually the male line of that family also died out.
Somerleyton Hall and Park were bought in 1843 by Sir Samuel Morton Peto who, for the next seven years, carried out extensive rebuilding. Paintings were specially commissioned for the house, and the gardens and grounds were completely redesigned. Peto employed Prince Albert’s favourite architect John Thomas.
In 1863 the Somerleyton estate was sold to Sir Francis Crossley of Halifax, West Yorkshire who, like Peto, was a philanthropist, a manufacturer, and a Member of Parliament. Sir Francis’ son Savile was created Baron Somerleyton in 1916. The House is now held by the present Lord Somerleyton and inhabited by the family. The family motto is ‘Everything that is good comes from above’.
The formal gardens cover 12 acres (49,000 m²). They feature a yew hedge maze created by William Andrews Nesfield in 1846, and a ridge and furrow greenhouse designed by Joseph Paxton, the architect of The Crystal Palace. There is also a walled garden, an aviary, a loggia and a 90 metre long pergola covered with roses and wisteria. The more informal areas of the garden feature rhododendrons and azaleas and a fine collection of specimen trees.
Website: Official Somerleyton Hall Website
The famous London home of the Duke of Wellington (of Wellington Boot fame).
Apsley House, also known as Number One, London, was the London residence of the Dukes of Wellington and stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic circulation system. It is a grade I listed building.
The house is now run by English Heritage and is open to the public as a museum and art gallery, although the 8th Duke of Wellington still uses part of the building as a part-time residence. It is sometimes referred to as the Wellington Museum. It is perhaps the only preserved example of an English aristocratic town house from its period. The practice has been to maintain the rooms as far as possible in the original style and decor. It contains the 1st Duke’s collection of paintings, porcelain, the silver centrepiece made for the Duke in Portugal, c 1815, sculpture and furniture. Antonio Canova’s heroic marble nude of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker made 1802-10, holding a gilded Nike in the palm of his right hand, and standing 3.45 metres to the raised left hand holding a staff. It was set up for a time in the Louvre and was bought by the Government for Wellington in 1816 (Pevsner) and stands in Adam’s Stairwell.
Location: Central London
Website: Official Apsley House Website
Famous for it’s beautilful gardens – it’s also home to a safari park.
Woburn Abbey, comprising Woburn Park and its buildings, was originally founded as a Cistercian abbey in 1145. Taken from its monastic residents by Henry VIII and given to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford in 1547, it became the seat of the Russell Family and the Dukes of Bedford. The Abbey was largely rebuilt starting in 1744 by the architects Henry Flitcroft and Henry Holland for the 4th Duke. Anna Maria, the wife of the 7th Duke, originated the afternoon tea ritual in 19th-century England.
Following World War II, dry rot had been discovered and half the Abbey was subsequently demolished. When the 12th Duke died in 1953, his son the 13th Duke was exposed to heavy death duties and the Abbey was a half-demolished, half-derelict house. Instead of handing the family estates over to the National Trust, he kept ownership and opened the Abbey to the public for the first time in 1955. It soon gained in popularity as other amusements were added, including Woburn Safari Park on the grounds of the Abbey in 1970. Asked about the unfavourable comments by other aristocrats when he turned the family home into a safari park, the 13th Duke said, “I do not relish the scorn of the peerage, but it is better to be looked down on than overlooked.”
Website: Official Woburn Abbey Website
This iconic home has recently been featured as the shooting location for the hit ITV series Downtown Abbey.
The present castle stands on the site of an earlier house, in turn built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 8th century. In 1692, Robert Sawyer, a lawyer and college friend of Samuel Pepys, bequeathed a mansion at Highclere to his only daughter, Margaret. Her second son, Robert Sawyer Herbert, inherited Highclere, began its picture collection, and created the garden temples. His nephew and heir Henry Herbert was made Baron Porchester and 1st Earl of Carnarvon by King George III.
In those years, the house was a square, classical mansion, but it was remodelled and all but rebuilt for the third earl by Sir Charles Barry in 1839 to 1842 after he had finished building the Houses of Parliament. It is in the “High Elizabethan” style and faced in Bath stone.
The term “High Elizabethan” with which the house is often tagged refers to the English architecture of the late 16th century and early 17th century when traditional Tudor architecture was being challenged by the newly arrived Italian Renaissance influences. During the 19th century there was a huge Renaissance revival movement of which Sir Charles Barry was a great exponent.
Barry had been inspired to become an architect by the Renaissance architecture of Italy and was very proficient at working in the Renaissance based style which in the 19th century became known as Italianate architecture. His work at Cliveden is considered amongst his finest. At Highclere, however he worked in the English renaissance revival style, but added to it many of the motifs of the Italianate style. This is particularly noticeable in the towers which are slimmer and more refined than those of the other great English Renaissance revival house Mentmore Towers built in the same era. This strong Italianate influence has led to the castle being quite fairly described as in the Italianate style.
The external walls are decorated with strapwork designs and cornicing typical of Renaissance architecture. The Renaissance theme is evident within the castle. Curiously so in the great hall, which like that at Mentmore is modeled on an Italian Renaissance central courtyard, complete with arcades and loggias. However, in an attempt to resemble a medieval English great hall, Barry has mixed styles introducing to the Italianate effect a Gothic influence evident in the points rather than curves of the arches. This mixing of styles was particularly common in this period and would not have been found in a genuine Elizabethan house.
Although the exterior of the north, east and south sides were completed by the time the 3rd Earl died in 1849 and Sir Charles Barry died in 1852, the interior and the west wing (designated as servants’ quarters) were still far from complete. The 4th Earl turned to the architect Thomas Allom, who had worked with Barry, to supervise work on the interior of the Castle, which was completed on 1878.
The 1st Earl rebuilt his park according to a design by Capability Brown during 1774 to 1777, relocating the village in the process (the remains of the church of 1689 are at the south west corner of the castle). The famous 18th century seed collector Bishop Stephen Pococke was a friend and brought Lebanon Cedar seeds from a trip to Lebanon. These beautiful trees can be seen in the garden today. Various follies and eye-catchers exist on the estate. To the east of the house is the Temple, a strange structure erected before 1743 with Corinthian columns from Devonshire House in Piccadilly. “Heaven’s Gate” is an eye-catcher about 18 m high on Sidown Hill, built in 1731 from a design, it is thought, by the 9th Earl of Pembroke. It fell shortly afterwards. The event was witnessed and recorded by a Rev. J Milles, who recorded that “we had not been there above half an hour before we saw it cleave from ye foundations and it fell with such a noise yet was heard at three or four miles [5 or 6 km] distant”.
Website: Official Highclere Castle Website
Do you have a favorite English stately home? Let us know all about it in the comments!