THE COUNTRY HOUSE DATABASE
ENGLAND WALES SCOTLAND IRELAND ISLANDS
HOUSE INDEX PLACE INDEX FAMILY INDEX
LOST HOUSES PRIVATE OWNERS SOURCES
Summary Statistics for Private Owners
The Country House Database represents a first attempt at listing country houses in the British Isles from the late medieval period to ca. 1850, together with an index to all the families so far traced as having occupied them. Certain types of house have been omitted (for fairly obvious reasons):
Episcopal and Royal Palaces (some notable exceptions);
Large vicarages (known to have contained libraries throughout their history);
Castles with little history beyond the Civil War;
Houses abandoned by the middle of the seventeenth century;
Ecclesiastical buildings destroyed in the Dissolution;
Houses for which no adequate evidence could be established regarding historical ownership;
Houses which for most of their history were let rather than sold;
Large farm houses.
Some idea of the extent of these exclusions may be gathered by the fact that I have had to relegate to a subsidiary file over 1,000 houses. In the period between the first county directories (ca. 1820) and 1850 over 10,000 residences belonging to the gentry and minor aristocracy have been identified, but with negligible evidence for their history. While a fair proportion of these have survived, and are noted in Pevsner's monumental series of volumes covering buildings in the British Isles, almost nothing is known about the families that occupied them.
Where possible I have included the names of well-known owners; details regarding the libraries (where any are known); dates when libraries were sold; demolition or destruction by fire; references to the considerable number of studies of country houses (national, county, local), particularly sources, like Campbell, Neale, or Morris, which have illustrations; rebuilding, remodelling, and enlarging.
In order to keep entries as brief as
possible most sources are given abbreviated reference, but there is a full list of the
large number of sources on which the database has been built. These include older (but
indispensable) national sources such as J.B. Burke's Visitation (1852-55); early
guide books and directories; county and town histories; modern national and county
surveys; all the volumes of the Victoria County History which have
published volumes dealing with manorial history; accounts by contemporary
Leland to Cromwell); articles in Country Life; brief histories of houses,
frequently published privately and difficult to locate; estate sale catalogues (the best
collection is in the Cambridge University Library); auction sale records. The best
collection of works, including rare pamphlets, is in the National Art Library at the
Victoria and Albert Museum. I had originally intended to list family histories, but
keeping up with genealogical literature is quite impossible for a single labourer in the
vineyard! Recent publications on historic buildings can be found at the English Heritage
A number of the larger country houses now have promotional websites, but these generally do not provide any useful information about their libraries or owners.
This index contains over 7,000 records for families identified with the 4,000+ houses listed. In cases where a house had numerous owners, some for only a brief period, I have compromised historical completeness by listing only the most important owners. One important discovery of my researches concerns the number of houses owned by a single family during the period covered: a staggering 2,194. The number of houses with just two owners is 1007. For published family histories T.R. Thomson's A Catalogue of British Family Histories (London, Society of Genealogists, 1980) is invaluable. For the aristocracy the standard works by Burke, O'Hart, Doyle, Douglas, and the 12 volume Complete Peerage (London, 1910-53) contain vast amounts of accurate information.
The Private Owners database is still actively being researched, but the data so far collected is made public as it includes several thousand references to previous studies, and details of auction sale records to 1850, studies of bookplates, wills and inventories, manuscript catalogues, and the location of books and whole libraries identified in the collections of the major research libraries.
Every effort is made to keep this website updated as new information becomes available, but a single correction or addition can involve changes in several files, so updating normally takes place about once a month.
England Wales Scotland Ireland The Islands
House Index Sources Place Index
Lost Houses Family Index
Those using the datafiles for Country House Libraries are requested to advise me of errors encountered. Proof-reading the equivalent of 5,000 pages of A4 data has proved to be an arduous and ongoing process. Omissions may be due to ignorance, or to the fact that insufficient information was available to justify including a house.
Last Updated 02-03-02