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As the sun set slowly on the British Empire in the years after the Second World War, the nation's stately homes were in crisis. Tottering under the weight of rising taxes and a growing sense that they had no place in twentieth-century Britain, hundreds of ancestral piles were dismantled and demolished. Perhaps even more surprising was the fact that so many of these great houses survived, as dukes and duchesses clung desperately to their ancestral seats and tenants' balls gave way to rock concerts, safari parks and day trippers.
From the Rolling Stones rocking Longleat to Christine Keeler rocking Cliveden, Noble Ambitions takes us on a lively tour of these crumbling halls of power, as a rakish, raffish, aristocratic Swinging London collided with traditional rural values. Capturing the spirit of the age, Adrian Tinniswood proves that the country house is not only an iconic symbol, but a lens through which to understand the shifting fortunes of Britain in an era of monumental social change.
© Adrian Tinniswood 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021
[A] preposterously entertaining history of the postwar country house... reading it is rather like leafing through an old leather-bound Smythson address book whose well-connected owner has helpfully added waspish notes, gossip and the odd family tree. In other words, it's heaven.
Adrian Tinniswood's rollicking study perfectly captures the combination of decadence, pathos and brazen cheek that kept the English country house alive when it faced disaster.
[A] brilliant new history of the country house since 1945... Tinniswood tells...[the] story superbly, his racy anecdotes mined not just from the usual memoirs, but from a studious trawl of endless local papers.
Beautifully orchestrated... a compulsive read, deliciously voyeuristic and yet a triumph of meticulous social and cultural scholarship.
A vastly entertaining account of the crisis that befell England's stately homes in the decades immediately after the war.