The English country house is generally accepted as a large house or mansion, once in the ownership of an individual who also usually owned another great house in town allowing one to spend time in the country and in the city. Country houses and stately homes are sometimes confused—while a country house is always in the country, a stately home can also be in a town. Apsley House, built for the Duke of Wellington at the corner of Hyde Park ('No. 1, London' it was called), is one example. Other country houses such as Ascott in Buckinghamshire were deliberately designed not to be stately, and to harmonise with the landscape, while some of the great houses such as Kedleston Hall and Holkham Hall were built as "power houses" to impress and dominate the landscape, and were certainly intended to be "stately homes". Today many former "stately homes", while still country houses, are far from stately and most certainly not homes.
The country house was not only a weekend retreat for aristocrats, but also often a full time residence for the minor gentry who were a central node in the "squirearchy" that ruled Britain until the Reform Act 1832 (as documented in The Purefoy Letters, 1735-53 by L G Mitchell). Even some of the formal business of the shire was transacted in the Hall.
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