"The book has widespread appeal...Photographers will appreciate the technical magnificence of perfectly parallel lines, remarkable lighting and subjects selected with great courage. Book fanciers will be delighted with the superior reproduction, and everyone else will examine and re-examine these wonderful pictures by one of the nation's top free-lance photographers."

(The Washington Post)


From the Middle Ages through the Victorian Era, generations of wealthy and powerful Englishmen built houses of unprecedented splendor and surrounded themselves with the most exquisite objects of their time.

The culmination of a collaboration between leading British architectural historian Mark Girouard and internationally acclaimed photographer Fred Maroon that began with a National Geographic article, The English Country House: A Tapestry of Ages traces the evolution of England's great houses.

Here in the stunning settings their owners chose for them are priceless works by Adam, Chippendale, Van Dyck and Rubens that dazzled almost one million visitors at the National Gallery of Art's 1985-86 exhibition, "Treasure Houses of Britain". The English Country House: A Tapestry of Ages takes us from Broadlands where the honeymooning Prince of Wales stayed in 1981, to Uppark where a dairymaid married her 71-year-old master in 1825, from the garden of Hatfield House, where Elizabeth I received word of her accession to the throne, to the Dry Laundry at Erdigg where other Englishwomen pressed wrinkles from the household linen.

Guided by Girouard's historical insights and his own architectural background, Maroon sought out and photographed the rooms which best exemplify the changing decorative and societal styles of each era: the massive, chestnut-raftered Great Hall at Penshurst Place where the medieval lord feasted amongst his household and guests, the small silk-draped Queen's closet at Ham House where Charles II's wife received only the most intimate of her associates. In images as jewel-like as the subjects they depict, Maroon captures the sinuous lines of a mermaid carved on the sofa at Kedleston, the play of light against the silver furnishings at Knole, the delicate pastels of Burghley House's Heaven Room where Queen Victoria breakfasted beneath a painted canopy of swirling gods and goddesses.

Accompanying the photographs are nine essays based on interviews with the very real people – lords and butlers, duchesses and curators – who live and work in fabulous houses like Chatsworth where Girouard spent childhood holidays, assuming, as he relates in his introduction, that he was at "some kind of hotel." The English Country House: A Tapestry of Ages invites you to explore what Girouard calls the "secret landscapes" and lavish chambers of England's most magnificent country houses.