Waugh and the Country House Revival

A recent article in Spear’s magazine by its editor-in-chief and founder William Cash deals with several subjects, including the revival of the country house. The magazine is devoted to asset/investment management and the good life and has been described as a cross between Forbes and Vanity Fair. In the appropriately-named Cash’s view, Waugh (or more particularly his novel Brideshead Revisited) played a key role in saving the country house:

Evelyn Waugh liked to describe the English country house as our nation’s greatest contribution to Western civilisation. But it nearly didn’t survive as an art form. A … little-noticed anniversary in 2015 was the 40th of the ‘Destruction of the Country House, 1875-1975’ exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The show is a rare example of how an art exhibition can change the political mood.

Following the V&A show, public and government appetite for saving our great heritage improved. But it wasn’t until the 1980s, with the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, combined with the ‘Treasure Houses of Britain’ exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington, opened with a gala ball attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales, that the idea of the English country house was reborn and fêted again.

That may overstate somewhat the importance Waugh attributed to the country house. Cash goes on, however, to describe a recently increased interest in reviving country houses in response to favourable government tax policy.

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