a large house in the country, especially one that belongs or used to belong to a rich important family He used to entertain the politicians of the day at his country house. See related entries: Types of home Culture Many country houses are now open to the public to visit and many are owned by the National Trust. Some of the most famous English country houses include Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Blenheim Palace near Oxford. Culturestately homesIn Britain there are many large stately homes that belong or used to belong to upper-class aristocratic families. The houses are called stately homes from the opening lines of a poem by Felicia Hemans (1793–1835) . They are sometimes also called country houses because most of them are in the countryside. Some are approached through large iron gates down a long drive (= private road). Many have formal gardens and are surrounded by a large private park (= an area of grass and trees), often with a lake.Stately homes range from small manor houses to palaces. Manor houses date from the 14th century and are often square stone buildings with a central courtyard, and some are entered by crossing a moat (= a deep channel, sometimes containing water) which was originally a means of defence. Some larger houses were built in the 16th century, including Hampton Court in south-west London, Burghley House near Peterborough and Hardwick Hall near Derby.Many stately homes date from the 18th century, and are associated with famous architects. Blenheim Palace near Oxford was designed in the baroque style by Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor. Holkham Hall in Norfolk, designed only a few years later by William Kent, is in the Palladian style. Kedleston Hall near Derby, the home of the Curzon family, was mainly the work of Robert Adam. The large estates attached to stately homes attracted landscape gardeners (= people who design gardens) such as ‘Capability’ Brown, who laid out the gardens at Burghley, Blenheim and Chatsworth.Stately homes are very expensive to look after and, in order to get enough money to do this, some owners open their houses to the public. They charge visitors an admission fee. Many stately homes have been given by their owners to the National Trust, an organization which raises the money to look after them from gifts, membership fees and admission charges. In many cases, the former owners continue to live in part of the house. This arrangement means that the house is well cared for, and the family does not have to pay inheritance tax when the owner dies.Visitors go to stately homes to admire their architecture, and to walk round the gardens. They also go to see valuable furniture, paintings, tapestries and china that have been collected over a long period . Sometimes, documents about the family or about historical events are also displayed. There is generally a cafe and a shop selling souvenirs. During the summer, concerts or plays may be performed in the house or gardens. Some owners have added other attractions: at Longleat House, for example, there is a safari park (= a park where people can drive round and see wild animals, e.g. lions).
“The stately homes of EnglandHow beautiful they stand!Amidst their tall ancestral trees,O'er all the pleasant land.”
“The stately homes of EnglandHow beautiful they stand!To prove the upper classesHave still the upper hand. ”