London's Country Houses:  Published in Spring 2009 by Phillimore & Co. Ltd, reprinted 2010


THE BOOK: From the late 15th century up until 1900, many of the prosperous upper and middle classes of London built much-loved second homes in the suburbs, some on riverside sites, others on high ground with extensive views. Though the owners often had country estates too, the pressure of city life led them more frequently to their suburban country house, its relatively smaller size being easier to manage, and where gardens and outdoor pursuits could be enjoyed without the owners losing contact with business and society. Moreover, the London country houses offered an opportunity to display wealth to their friends and other acquaintances. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully presented, this book shows how the houses were often expensively and fashionably decorated and furnished, with several holding significant art collections. Maps, plans, paintings, prints and photographs complement an informative and readable text. This book is the first to address the history of these houses. First impressions of London and its built-up environment would suggest that country houses would be unlikely to have survived in large numbers, but many are still standing. Most have lost parts of their grounds and original surroundings, but London’s adaptation of these buildings in more recent times has helped them to endure. Some are in public ownership and can be visited, although most are used by institutions; some are still in private hands and a very few are at risk. Covering the area within the M25, and including information on owners, architects, landscape design, building materials and style, this is a thorough account of a very different type of country house.

THE AUTHOR: Caroline Knight is an architectural historian. Born in Yorkshire, she has a degree in History and History of Art from London University and an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Living on Highgate Hill she was intrigued by two neighbouring houses, Lauderdale House and Cromwell House, 16th- and 17th-century respectively. When they had been built, Highgate was in the country, about four miles north of the City, but they are in many respects unlike country houses further from London. That observation prompted her research into what may be called suburban houses, some of which were the subject of her Courtauld dissertation. In 1990-2 she wrote three of the five volumes which make up A History of Kensington Palace, commissioned by the Curators of the State Apartments at Kensington Palace. The research revealed the changing pattern of use of the various royal palaces and houses since the 16th century. While lecturing on architectural history, she continued to investigate houses in the London area, producing several papers on the subject at a series of conferences at the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, as well as various articles in academic journals and chapters in The Renaissance Villa in Britain 1500-1700 and The Early Cecils: Patronage, Culture & Power 1558-1612.