Calke Abbey, Derbyshire: A Hidden House Revealed by Howard Colvin

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire: A Hidden House Revealed by Howard Colvin lands on the shelves of my shop, where it will be found in my Architecture section.

London: Antler Books, 1985, Hardback in dust wrapper.

Contains: Black & white photographs; Colour photographs; Maps; Colour frontispiece; Plans;

From the cover: Until 1981 Calke Abbey was probably the least-known country house of its size and importance in England. Then, because it seemed the house would have to be sold to meet crippling death duties, it became the subject of a furious debate about its future and for the first time was visited by many people who fully appreciated its magical and very special qualities. Now rescued for the nation by The National Trust, this book is a unique record of Calke Abbey as it was when the Trust took it over and of the family that created it.

Calke Abbey is a survival from a vanished world. This great 18th-century mansion is a reflection of the landed gentry who made it what it was and a window on a way of life that has gone for ever. Its story is in many ways a typical one that could be told of many other English country houses, but Calke is unique. The home of the Harpur-Crewe family for 400 years, the increasing eccentricity of later generations of the family led to their retreat from the world and to the preservation of the house as it was in the middle of the 19th century. Room after room survived as it was 100 years ago, while closed shutters and dust sheets ensured that the colours of fabrics and furnishings in the principal rooms were as brilliant as when they were first made. Each new generation of the Harpur-Crewes seems to have closed the door on the debris of the previous one and moved on to pursue their own interests in another part of the house. So room after room at Calke was a treasury of forgotten possessions, including an 18th-century State Bed with Chinese silk hangings in mint condition, and the manuscript of a work by Haydn, as well as collections of birds, toys, paintings and butterflies.

Howard Colvin is one of the countrys foremost architectural historians and the only one who had explored the house and its archives before 1981. In this enthralling book he charts the history and development of the house and shows how it is very much a creation of the Harpur-Crewe family. Rising from obscure origins in the Middle Ages to achieve wealth and prominence, the Harpur-Crewes subsequent retreat from the world ensured the preservation of Calke as a house where time stood still.

The book is illustrated with stunning, specially commissioned photographs by leading photographer Michael Freeman, who was allowed into the house before The National Trust embarked on their epic task of restoration. Calke Abbey is therefore a unique literary and visual record of a very rare encapsulation of the past.

Very Good in Good Dust Wrapper. Dust wrapper sunned at the spine and margins of the lower panel. Text complete, clean and tight.

Brown boards with Gilt titling to the Spine. 128 pages. Index. 11¼” x 8¾”.


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