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Why was heraldry so important to the families for whom houses were built? How does the layout of a house reveal the values of the people who lived in it? By reading the architectural features of a house - even simple items such as windows, doors, chimneys and staircases - we can learn so much about the past. Interiors, as well as exteriors, have a story to tell, with floor layouts and contents of rooms revealing much about the people who built and lived in them. We can also read the icography of a house: its symbols and images, spanning subjects such as classical mythology, religion and British history. Heraldry too is an essential tool for understanding much of the details found in country houses, from coats of arms to crests, or fireplace decorations and ceiling bosses. Through all this, we gain a glimpse into the social world of the families who lived there - and discover that the stories of many country houses are inextricably linked by marriage, royalty or political or military service. Richly illustrated with stunning photographs from the unique archive of Country Life magazine, this book is a joy for all those who want to learn more about our heritage, art and architecture, and the essential characteristics of a classic country house.
Jeremy Musson is architectural editor of Country Life and a leading historian of the country house. He is presenter of the television series The Curious House Guest, broadcast on BBC2 in 2005. He lives in Cambridge with his family and is the author of The English Manor House (Aurum 1999).