Homes with a Legacy
Learn about what it takes to maintain a historic estate.
Have you ever wondered what kind of work goes into maintaining an aristocratic estate? Manors, castles and large estates may seem like the setting of a fairytale or novel, but in his latest book Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats, author James Reginato goes beyond the walls of these amazing homes to show the very real families who still inhabit and maintain them.
A BREATH OF NEW LIFE
Families all over Great Britain have maintained estates that have been passed down to them for hundreds of years. Often, the family lineage of each estate reveals fascinating moments within the aristocrats’ history. “I was consistently impressed by the creativity and industry of every person,” explains Reginato. “Running houses like these is a never-ending battle that requires diligence and constant imagination.” The people who reside at these landmarks are faced with not only the financial responsibility of maintaining the rich history of the property, but also creating new and exciting ways to bring life back into the cavernous and echo-filled hallways.
GET A PEEK AT WHAT IT TAKES TO MAINTAIN A HISTORIC ESTATE.
UPKEEP AND RENOVATION
Lord Edward Manners of Haddon Hall is one of many estate owners who is in the process of developing detailed renovation plans for his 800 year old home. His major projects include acquiring permits, replacing the lead roof and restoring the chapel windows. “Hopefully when we finish, they’ll be good for another 600 years,” he says. Likewise, the Marchioness of Dufferin dedicated her early years to working on her own estate, Clandeboye in Northern Ireland. This entailed buying fine Irish furniture and pictures to replace pieces that had been damaged or sold off during the two World Wars. She also meticulously cared for and catalogued the first Marquess’s vast collections and archival materials.
There’s a balance between restoring the property and maintaining the precious items that live inside it. The paintings and historic furniture need as much attention as the infrastructure itself. At the Dumfries House in Ayshire, Scotland, the priority was turning the long-admired building into a livable home. To achieve this, the owners had to install new heating, wiring and plumbing, and bring in experts to unearth the intricate original painted decorations on the walls and ceilings, as well as repair the exceptional rococo plasterwork. The result is an estate truly fit for royalty in the modern age.
REJUVENATION THROUGH ART
Aristocratic families each have their own methods for rejuvenating these grand spaces. The current owners of Lismore Castle in Ireland, for example, welcome guests into a gallery and exhibition space on the grounds where
they feature contemporary artists of all calibers. The estate, built in 1185, has seen countless transformations, and bringing contemporary art to a remote corner of Ireland is one unique way to draw new crowds of sophisticated cultural tourists. The family has collaborated with other collectors and artists to put together amazing shows. “My family started our collection fifty years ago, and his began five hundred years ago,” collector Mera Rubell said of the current owner of Lismore, the Earl of Burlington. “But I was so impressed by how forward-looking he is. He’s a very contemporary person, but at the same time he is determined to understand and appreciate the past.” This ability to combine contemporary art with a historical space brings new life into Burlington’s home. “All my life, this part of the castle has been dead and derelict,” Burlington says. “We are very happy to see life going on in there now.”
While other owners have opened their doors for tours and galleries, the 12,000-acre Goodwood House in West Sussex attracts 1.5 million visitors a year through Goodwood Festival of Speed, an annual hill climb featuring historic motor racing vehicles. “I’ve always loved cars, as vehicles and as objects,” says current owner Lord March. “I love the idea that they are design-focused and very sculptural. As I was looking for things we could draw revenue from at Goodwood, I realized this was something that was part of our history.” The house also succeeds as a convivial family home for the Earl of March and his family. “Everything we do is centered around the house and ensures that the family can remain here for generations to come,” he says.
Great Houses, Modern Aristocrats may give readers a glimpse into the elegant lifestyle of those who live in great historical homes, but it also shows that living harmoniously with history in a modern era is a life-long career for these homeowners. Seeing the work that goes into maintaining the historic integrity of such cultured estates and sharing them with the public can inspire any Victorian homeowner.