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And today’s field trip was…

Great Dixter. It’s a house.

A hundred years ago, a rich man bought a falling-down 15th Century house in Northiam. Then he bought a falling-down 16th Century house in nearby Kent, had it dismantled brick-by-beam and moved back to the first house. Then he got the great Victorian architect Edwin Lutyens to stitch the two together into a faux Tudor manor house, with big dollops of 1910 sauce.

If that sounds a bit snarky, it’s because I haven’t made up my mind about this sort of thing. Two decaying Tudor buildings were saved, so there’s that. And the resulting house really is lovely, so there’s that. The modern bits don’t stick out at all.

But there’s something a bit too Disney’s Magic Kingdom about the whole business. And something too much like vandalism.

Lutyens bought ancient carved blanket chests and had the backs and bottoms removed to put over the 20th Century radiators. Just, ew. There’s still no shortage of ancient chests in England, but…ew.

Years ago, we visited Hever Castle, which was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home. One of the Astors got hold of it in 1903, gutted it and rebuilt it to the 1903 notion of what Anne Boleyn’s childhood home should look like.


I don’t know. I think these stately old homes cease to be homes and die. And then elderly people come and buy overpriced cups of tea and artisanal chutneys and tea towels with the birds of England in the gift shop.

Sometimes I feel like I’m something unpleasant swarming over the mummified corpse of something that was once great.

p.s. There was a garden.

August 2, 2011 — 9:44 pm
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