Stately home  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

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.

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