Tiles without a Fireplace: Sea Monsters in New York Bedroom
England: The Lost Houses
Since at least the middle ages, the upper class of England included the aristocracy (dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts and barons) and the landed gentry (baronets, knights, esquires, and gentlemen). Since only men who owned property could vote, the wealthy controlled the government of the country, especially after the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689 shifted power away from the monarchy towards Parliament. Many members of the peerage held seats in the House of Lords. Consequently, MPs usually owned a house in London, for while Parliament was in session, as well as one or more grand estates in the countryside. These country estates generated income by charging tenants to live and farm their land. For example, the Dukes of Devonshire, the Cavendish family, owned two lavish estates in Derbyshire: Hardwick Hall, a Tudor mansion with its own rhyme (Hardwick Hall, more window than wall) and Chatsworth (famously featured in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice) as well as a mansion in Picadilly, London.
In the 1870s, these rental incomes stagnated, due to an agricultural slump caused by cheaper grain imported from America. This period in history saw the continuation of migration from the countryside to cities and emigration to US that began with the Industrial Revolution.
In the 1880s and 1890s, the complete governmental control of large landholders began to slip. In 1894-5 suffrage increased to 60% of males--any man paying a rent of over £10 per year was now eligible to vote. This still prevented all women and the working class in major cities from voting, but represented enough of a change that a series of laws were passed to limit the power of the aristocracy.
Prior to World War I, each wealthy family employed dozens of servants and farmers to keep their massive houses running. When Britain declared war in August of 1914, thousands of male servants joined or were drafted into military service. Female servants either stayed at their jobs, became nurses, or worked in factory jobs vacated by men. Many of these men and women who did not want to take up their old jobs as servants at the end of the war. As the popular post-World War I song went, "How you gonna keep em down on the farm now that they've seen Paree?" The move from country to city was especially marked by the 1950s. As inheritance tax rates shot up to near 80%, the rate of demolition increased exponentially.
Architectural Salvage and Resale
Interpreting the Past: Period Rooms
- Harris, John. Moving Rooms: The Trade in Architectural Salvages. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
- Lost Heritage: England's Lost Country Houses. www.lostheritage.org.uk/lh_complete_list.html
- Peck, Amelia, James Parker, William Rieder, Olga Raggio, Mary B. Shepard, Annie-Christine Daskalakis Mathews, Daniëlle O. Kisluk-Grosheide, Wolfram Koeppe, Joan R. Mertens, Alfreda Murck, and Wen C. Fong, Period Rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996.