The country houses built in Britain during the mid- and late-19th centuries, as Mark Girouard, notes in this book, are monuments to their age. Built for the Victorian country gentleman, they reflected the values and priorities of his class, while their development speaks to the changing tastes and technologies of the period. In taking these houses as his subject, the author seeks to offer insight not just into the buildings but into a social class that dominated the age and whose influence can still be felt in many ways today.
Girouard divides the book into three parts. The first offers a general overview of Victorian country houses, including their design, construction, and layout. This allows him to provide some generalities about Victorian country homes, as well as charting their evolution throughout the period. He follows this in the second part by detailing 23 houses built during the era. Scattered throughout Great Britain and Ireland, they serve as case studies, with their individualized descriptions illustrating the assertions made earlier in the book. The remaining homes built during the era are listed in a catalog that comprises the final third of the work, giving readers a complete list of every one of the homes and their subsequent fate.
Generously illustrated with photographs of the houses and supplemented with floor plans, maps, and biographical details of the architects, Girouard's book is a lavish study of its subject. Written in a clear style, its pages offer a comprehensive synopsis of the evolution of Victorian country abodes, one that provides many interesting details about their development. Though written over thirty years ago, it remains a useful starting point for anyone interested in the country houses and in what they reveal about the Victorian elite.