The conservation of country house ruins
thesisposted on 17.03.2014, 12:25 by Miriam Adele Cady
This thesis examines the conservation of country houses in a ruinous or formerly ruinous state. It is argued that the country house ruins are a unique and underutilized resource. They are the physical manifestation of the decline of the country house and therefore provide new opportunities for the interpretation of country houses. The study revolves around the concept of the standard country house visit, developed primarily from the work of Laurjane Smith and Gaynor Bagnall, to illustrate ways in which the ruins disrupt the established heritage tour of country houses. The thesis beings with a history of the decline and current situation of the country house, providing context for the case studies examined in the work. Through an examination of the history of country house visiting, and standardisation of the country house visit by heritage organisations, the standard country house visit is defined. This identification of the key role the standard country house visit plays for the sites themselves, the heritage organizations, and the British public is then examined to assist in a deepened historical appreciation of the larger trajectory of the country house in the life of the British people. The disruption of this standard country house visit is explored through six case studies. The case studies were selected from the three major country house heritage organisations in Britain and fall into two categories: shells and restored or reconstructed ruins. In addition to historical analysis of the reasons for decline, the case studies are assessed on the availability and focus of interpretation. This concentrates on the attempts to include the standard country house visit in the interpretation and presentation and the ways in which the sites disrupt the standard visit. The thesis concludes with a set of site conservation proposals, drawn from the analysis of the cases studies, as to how the country house ruin should be interpreted and presented to the public.