The spectacular houses that were saved from ruin

Share on Linkedin
The spectacular houses that were saved from ruin
Britain’s grand mansions attract flocks of visitors – but at one point they nearly disappeared. Alastair Sooke explores how a writer’s vision helped to save them.

Britain’s stately homes are some of its most impressive structures – vast country piles with ornate formal gardens that once housed the aristocracy.

One of the most well-known of these is Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, which was made famous by the TV series Brideshead Revisited, based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh.

The book is a rich love letter to the English country house. It was written in 1945, at a time when these grand homes were often decaying and ravaged by a tough post-war economic climate.

It was at this precise moment that writers such as Waugh were exercising their romantic fantasies about places like Castle Howard, buildings that Waugh described as Britain’s “chief national artistic achievement”.

By the 1950s, the fate of these crumbling mansions was already turning around – and today millions of people visit stately homes every year. Alastair Sooke travels to Castle Howard to find out more.

This story is a part of BBC Britain – a series focused on exploring this extraordinary island, one story at a time. Readers outside of the UK can see every BBC Britain story by heading to the Britain homepage; you also can see our latest stories by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

If you would like to comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

And if you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “If You Only Read 6 Things This Week”. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Earth, Culture, Capital, Travel and Autos, delivered to your inbox every Friday.