The Country Estate

I recently found myself wandering around Gibside, an 18th-century country estate established by the Bowes Family and now owned and open to the public by the National Trust, and it put me to dwelling on the great number of similarities between all the estates I've visited. Why is this?

First off lets run through the features one expects to find:

  1. Manor
  2. Stables
  3. Formal Garden
  4. Landscaped Grounds
  5. Walled Garden
  6. Orangerie
  7. A folly
  8. A monument

Each of the three country estates I'm most familiar with, Gibside, Seaton Delaval Hall and the Blickling Estate (All now in National Trust care), these eight items can be found at each.

So what were they used for?

The Manor is self-evident, it provides quarters for the lord, lady, their family and servants to live and work.

The stables were required to house the horses that worked the estate and provided transportation and leisure for the family.

The formal garden was a manicured space typically attached to the main house with a variety of trees, plants and flowers. Often a rose garden and a flat lawn suitable for picnics or croquet.

The landscaped grounds surround the estate, ensuring that the hall has both an attractive view and a suitable barrier of privacy from any neighbouring settlements.

The walled garden was used to produced seasonal vegetables along with more exotic foods that would not have been possible to grow in our climate without the added thermal mass of the walls.

The Orangerie serves a similar purpose as the walled garden, the enclosed space and glass facade create a warm environment for fruit growing enabling more exotic fruits such as oranges and lemons to be grown within the English climate.

The folly and the monument are similar in that they both serve no practical purpose. The folly is located a distance from away from the main house where a party can amble to and then relax. Typically it has a view of either the monument, the house itself or perhaps some natural land formation.

So why do so many estates share these features? The likely answer is they're an expression of wealth. When one family builds a new feature each follows suit to show that they are of the same class and can afford the same luxuries. The other answer is leisure, with wealth comes an abundance of free time (see PG Wodehouse) and each of these elements are an extravagance that this time can be spent on.