Perspectives on the English country house

The south front of Blickling Hall, with the service wings on either side. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The south front of Blickling Hall, with the service wings on either side. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The National Trust and Apollo magazine are presenting a panel discussion about the personal stories behind great historic houses.

One of the service wings at Blickling. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

One of the service wings at Blickling. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

Speakers include Simon Jenkins (journalist and chairman of the National Trust), Oscar Humphries (publisher of Apollo), Nicky Haslam (interior designer, who lives at King Henry’s Hunting Lodge), Robert Sackville West (who lives at Knole), Professor Maurice Howard (architectural and decorative art historian) and Robert O’Byrne (vice-president of the Irish Georgian Society).

View of the south front through a gateway. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

The discussion will explore how historic houses have shaped the aesthetics, cultural politics or academic research of the various speakers.

The east front and the parterre. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

The east front and the parterre. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

The event will take place at the National Portrait Gallery in London on 23 September, at 7 pm, and tickets can be booked here.

View of the house and the service wings from the parterre. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

View of the house and the service wings from the parterre. ©National Trust Images/John Millar

When I was at Blickling Hall yesterday to give a talk I sensed something similar, what might be called Blickling’s ‘spirit of place’.

Blickling Hall seen from across the lake. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

Blickling Hall seen from across the lake. ©National Trust Images/Nick Meers

It is very difficult to define, but it has something to do with the characteristics of the surrounding rural Norfolk landscape, the Edwardian garden, the Jacobean proportions of the house, the materials, the surface textures, the various smells and fragrances, the fall of the autumn light through the windows and the layers of seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century furnishings and works of art.

4 Responses to “Perspectives on the English country house”

  1. Anny Says:

    The genii loci is an ancient concept, and one I’m sure permeates our heritage – I’m sure we’ve all had a sense of it at one time or another and perhaps it’s especially strong in old houses where the atmosphere has been concentrated over many years. I think it’s that special something you can’t quite put your finger on, that makes one property feel appealing where another just won’t.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Indeed, Anny, and the thing is to preserve and nurture that without making it too obvious – very difficult:)

  3. Helen Bailey Says:

    Emile — I’m sorry I missed your visit to Blickling last week, but thank you for posting these thoughts. One has to be aware of the spirit in order to be able to share it with visitors and to make sure everything we do chimes with the spirit. This is quite a significant challenge for the property team, but a real thrill when we get it right.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Apologies for the delay in responding, Helen, I have been away for a few days. Yes I appreciate this can be quite a responsibility. But I certainly felt the quiet power of Blickling on the day I was there, and I think many of the others (some of whom had come from quite far away) did too:)

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