Stately home

A stately home is, strictly speaking, one of about 500 large properties built in England between the mid-16th century and the early part of the 20th century, as well as converted abbeys and other church property (after the Dissolution of the Monasteries). They are usually distinguished from true "castles", being of a later date and built purely as residences. These houses became a status symbol for the great families of England who competed with each other to provide hospitality for members of the Royal Household. Famous architects and landscape architects such as Robert Adam, Sir Charles Barry, Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir John Vanbrugh, Capability Brown and Humphry Repton were employed to incorporate new styles into the buildings. Great art and furniture collections were built up and displayed in the houses. The agricultural collapse towards the end of the nineteenth century, the First World War and then World War II changed the fortunes of many houses and their owners, and now there remains a curious mix of living museums, part-ruined houses and castles, and grand family estates.

The following organisations are responsible for the upkeep of numerous stately homes.

However, many stately homes are owned/managed by private individuals or by trusts. The costs of running a stately home are legendarily high. Many owners rent out their homes for use as film and television sets as a means of extra income, thus many of them are familiar sights to people who have never visited them in person. The grounds often contain other tourist attractions, such as safari parks, funfairs or museums.

The term stately home is a quotation from the poem The Homes of England originally published in Blackwood's Magazine in 1827 by Felicia Hemans, which begins as follows.

The stately Homes of England,
How beautiful they stand,
Amidst their tall ancestral trees,
O’er all the pleasant land!

Noel Coward wrote and performed a parody of the above:

The stately homes of England,
How beautiful they stand,
To prove the upper classes
Have still the upper hand.

In the later, Las Vegas phase of his career Coward revised his lyrics:

The stately homes of England we proudly represent,
We only keep them up for Americans to rent....

Few owners use this phrase; they are more likely to call the properties "country houses." "Stately homes" is a real estate dealers' phrase, used by outsiders such as Robin Leach in Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and parodists such as Dame Edna Everage.

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