Friday, 16 November 2018 at 9:00 am – Saturday, 17 November 2018 at 4:00 pm

Reading the Country House Conference

Date: Friday 16th – Saturday 17th November 2018

Time: Friday, 9am – 6.30pm; Saturday, 9.30am – 4pm

Location: Manchester Metropolitan University

Tickets: Tickets available here. Prices range from £120 full rate, £65 day rate - Unwaged full rate £60, £35 unwaged day rate

County houses were made to be read—as symbols of power, political allegiance, taste and wealth. This places emphasis on the legibility of their architecture and decorative schemes, and the paintings, collections and even the furniture they contained. It also draw our attention to the skills required to decode —to read—these signs and symbols. The messages and processes of reading were carried further by the growing number of images of country houses produced through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: in private sketch books and journals and as engravings published as collections or incorporated into written guidebooks. These allowed the country house to be read in very different ways, as did its appearance in the pages of novels, sometimes as the backdrop or stage for the action, but also symbolic of social structures and relations. This conference seeks to explore all of these perspectives on reading the country house and links them to how the country house is read today, by house managers and visitors and by viewers of period dramas.


Friday 16 November

9.00–10.45: Registration

10.45-11.00: Opening Remarks / Welcome Address

11.00–13.00: Panel 1: Narrating and Interpreting Heritage

  • Chair—Jon Stobart (Ormond Council Chamber)
  • Isabel Budleigh, The National Trust Guidebook: Interpreting the Country House for the Visiting Public from the 1940s to the Present Day
  • Kayla Jones, Welsh Identity in Guidebooks: National Trust’s Penrhyn Guidebooks from 1952–2009
  • Dan O’Carroll, ‘Steal a Mountain, and they make you a Lord’: Critical Heritage Storytelling at Penrhyn Castle
  • Matthew Constantine, ‘Elegant and Useful?’: Interpreting Thomas Chippendale and Nostell

13.00–14.00: Lunch

14.00-15.00: Plenary 1: Kathryn Sutherland, House Fictions: the most perfect English invention

  • Chair—Dale Townshend (Ormond Council Chamber)

15.00-16.00: Parallel Panels 2 and 3

2: Reading walls and buildings

  • Chair—Jon Stobart (Ormond Council Chamber)
  • Clare Taylor, The Flock Trail: Re-thinking Hierarchies of Decoration in the Country House
  • Elizabeth Jamieson, How Well Equipped is your Stable? The Country House Stable and its Contents, 1789–1914

3: The Politics of Style

  • Chair—Peter Lindfield (Ormond Board Room)
  • Helen Bates, ‘Prodigious quantity of pedigrees heaped all over the House’: Re-reading the Gothic Revival: the 2nd Duke of Montagu’s Obsession with Reviving Feudal-Style Rights and its Physical Legacy in his Country House and Estates
  • Shaun Evans, Anglicised Enclaves? Welsh Ancestral Patriotism in the Country Houses of Wales: An Analysis of Herbert Sidney’s ‘The Escape of Henry Tudor from Mostyn Hall’ (1886)

16.00-16.30: Tea/coffee

16.30-18.00: Parallel Panels 4 and 5

4: Marginalised Perspectives?

  • Chair—Lizzie Jamieson (Ormond Council Chamber)
  • Amy Lim, The Appraising Eye of Celia Fiennes
  • Becky Harvey and Sarah Plumb, ‘They Liked to be cut off and lonely’: Questions of Isolation and Loneliness in Historical and Contemporary Readings of Calke Abbey
  • Charlotte Furness, Portraits on a Wall: Discovering the Forgotten Stories of Women of the Country House

5: Modernism and Modernity

  • Chair—Emma Liggins (Ormond Board Room)
  • Teresa Trout, Paradise Reclaimed: Canonicity and the Country House in Modernist Literature
  • Angelica Michelis, ‘Some folk can not abide here’: The Country House in Early Twentieth-Century British Crime Fiction
  • Gary Kelly, Castles in Ireland: Castle Rackrent, Edgeworthstown, and Modernity

18.30: Wine reception (Ormond Council Chamber)

Saturday 17 November

9.30-11.00: Parallel Panels 6 and 7

6: Literary references and literary representations

  • Chair—Dale Townshend (Business School N. Atrium, 502)
  • Freya Gowrley, Publishing Wilkes’s ‘Villakin’: Reading, Reception and Reputation at Sandown Cottage
  • Emma Liggins, Elizabeth Gaskell at Capesthorne Hall: Venerating the Old in Victorian Haunted House Narratives
  • Jemima Hubberstey, Reading Between the Lines: The Athenian Letters and the Mithraic Altar at Wrest Park

7: The Italianate Impulse

  • Chair—Peter Lindfield (Business School N. Atrium, 503)
  • Valerio Tolve, Villa Madama in Rome: Raffaello’s dream about ‘Le belle forme degli edifice antichi’
  • Andrew Hann, Reading and Writing a Classical Aesthetic: Sir Charles Monck’s Transformation of the Belsay Estate in Northumberland
  • Amy Parrish, ‘I am so tired with copies of the pictures he has chosen, that I would scarce hand up the originals’: The Reaction to Copies after Guido Reni in Eighteenth-Century Country Houses 

11.00-11.30: Tea / Coffee

11.30- 12.30: Parallel Panels 8 and 9

8: Intention and reception: country house owners and visitors

  • Chair—Andrew Hann (Business School N. Atrium, 502)
  • Peter Collinge, ‘A tasteless, wasteful grandeur, as dreary and ill-kept as possible’: The Response to and of Uninvited Visitors to Eighteenth-Century English Country Houses 
  • Nicola Walker, Displays of Purpose in the Country House from Home to Museum: Reading Spaces through Consumption and Display in the Long Eighteenth Century at Cannon Hall

9: Reading the Exotic

  • Chair—Jon Stobart (Business School N. Atrium, 503)
  • Hannah Lee, Readings and Re-readings of ‘Moor’ Figurines in Country Houses in England and Italy 1600–1800
  • Emile de Bruijn, Reading Orientalism: The Pagoda as Topos in the Context of the Country House

12.30–13.30: Lunch

13.30-14.30: Plenary 2: Phillip Lindley, Country Houses and Tombs: Immigrant Sculptors and Monuments of the British Elite

  • Chair—Peter Lindfield (Business School N. Atrium, 502)

14.30-16.00: Panel 10: Perspectives Past, Present and Future

  • Chair—Dale Townshend (Business School N. Atrium, 502)
  • Simon Spier, When is a Country House Not a Country House? The Mixed Reception of Mrs Bowes’ Mansion and Museum
  • Emma Slocombe, ‘A House that Smoulders rather than Sparkles’: Interpreting the Visitor Experience at Knole
  • Barbara Wood, Contemporary Readings and Future Meanings

16.00: Concluding remarks

Note: Our special collections will be open 12.30-14.00 on Friday and 12.30-16.00 with a selection of guidebooks and other ephemera available for view.

For more information, please contact:

Jon Stobart ·

Book Tickets

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