Homes with a Legacy

Victorian Homes - - Contents - By Tori Young­bauer

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.


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.



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.


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.

Great Houses, Mod­ern Aris­to­crats by James Regi­nato, pub­lished by Riz­zoli In­ter­na­tional Pub­li­ca­tions, Inc., © 2016; riz­

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