John Martin-Robinson

Rescuing an Irish gem

This large and splendid book is more in the nature of a grand illustrated guidebook than a historical monograph. Hundreds of photographs cover every aspect of Abbeyleix today, the magnificent Georgian house 60 miles south-west of Dublin — its contents, the garden and demesne, not to mention the owner’s family and friends. It makes a

An enduring romance

In the Pevsner volume on Sussex, the otherwise sane topographer Ian Nairn, harrumphed of Arundel ‘that anybody, duke or banker, could as late as 1890 have embarked on the pretty complete building of an imitation castle, remains a puzzle …’  In this amusing and richly illustrated book, Amicia de Moubray gives the answer, and demonstrates

A Charlotte Brontë of wood and stone

Sarah Losh is not forgotten (as the subtitle of this book suggests) in her own village of Wreay (pronounced ‘Rear’), south east of Carlisle in Cumberland. The locals refer to ‘Miss Sarah’ as if she were still alive, rather as they speak about Lady Anne Clifford at Appleby. Anybody who has visited the village and

The new arbiters of taste

Both these books are dominated by the American connection, over half of each being devoted to transatlantic collecting in the 20th century. James Stourton’s theme is post-war art collecting, and his US section is headed ‘America Triumphant’. He describes the 60 years when the USA dominated the international art market through sheer buying power but

No provincial laggard

Inigo Jones is well-known as the first true English Classical architect, and his stature has been established by a series of books and exhibitions over the last 40 years. English historians, however, have tended to treat Jones as an isolated, even old-fashioned, disciple of Palladio, ‘catching up’ with the Italian Renaissance, at a time when

A brace of noble piles

The great houses of England have been singularly blessed in their owners (with one or two exceptions) during the latter decades of the 20th century. None more so than Chatsworth and Holkham where the baton is currently being passed on to the younger generation. Both these volumes therefore have a slight valedictory quality, though they

From Edgar all the way to Elizabeth

Once upon a time, the young Roy Strong spent many hours, with the encouragement of Sir Anthony Wagner, researching the records of the College of Arms in connection with his interest in Elizabethan and Stuart portraits and pageantry. This resulted in what many regard as his best work, Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals. Now, 50

The inside story

This posthumous book is the summation of a lifetime’s research into aspects of the 18th-century interior in the British Isles by the leading historian of the subject. I say British Isles, for John Cornforth had strong interests in Irish and Scottish Georgian architecture, as well as English. As the former architectural editor of Country Life

Not poor or lowly

Which is the finest 18th-century building in England? Not a royal palace, not a library, not a cathedral, but a stable block: that designed by James Paine at Chatsworth. It is a faultless piece of architecture with none of the messiness and compromise of buildings intended for mere human habitation. Perfect in siting, perfect in

The last of a noble line

The new, 107th edition of Burke’s Peerage comes in three massive volumes. It is likely to be the last in printed book format. The previous, 106th edition (1999) was in two volumes, and all the Burke’s Peerages before that were single volumes back to No. 1 in 1826. There seems to be a touch of

The stateliest and the starriest

This elegant synthesis (you can tell immediately that Simon Jenkins is an Oxford man and not a product of the other place) is intended to complement the author’s successful Thousand Best Churches. It could be argued that England’s houses are much better known than its churches and that this sister volume is hardly essential. ‘Not