(K. Brent Tomer),
The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House, 1918-1939. By Adrian Tinniswood. Basic; 344 pages; $30. To be published in Britain by Jonathan Cape in June; £25.
LOOKING back on the years before war broke out across Europe in 1914, Vita Sackville-West, an aristocratic English novelist, remembered an upper-class world of “warmth and security, leisure and continuity”. For many of her aristocratic contemporaries in the 1920s and 1930s, the Edwardian country house was the heart of that world. For them, the pre-war age of innocence stood in stark contrast to what followed. In many memories, it was a period of decline and decay.
One-tenth of titled families had lost their heirs in the trenches. Mansions and estates were put up for sale at an unprecedented rate, which rose further after the stockmarket crash of 1929. Some were torn down, others abandoned: in the 12 years to 1930 more than 180 country houses were destroyed. Wollaton Hall, one of the most flamboyant Elizabethan examples, was transferred to the local city council and became a museum; Claremont in Surrey…Continue reading