Richard Ryder

What most imperilled country houses in the 20th century was taxes and death duties, not requisition

Servicemen used paintings as dartboards.   Schoolchildren dismantled banisters and paneling for firewood. Architects from the Ministry of Works acted like pocket Stalins. Sarcophagi were dumped in gardens beside beheaded statues. And overhead, Luftwaffe Dorniers droned with menace. Such hazards ravaged requisitioned country houses during the last war. Yet nothing imperilled them more, in the 20th

A Classless Society, by Alwyn W. Turner – review

The title of Alwyn W. Turner’s book could deter readers. Even the Hollywood film The Secret Lives of Dentists promised more excitement. John Major sought the creation of a classless society in the 1990s. He confused this with equality of opportunity and social mobility. Efforts to engineer classlessness always end in tears. George Orwell was

A way with clay

Most cultural tourists, apart from the Japanese, skirt the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent.  They are wrong. The bottle kilns have tumbled and the smoke-ridden skylines are no more. Yet museums teem with quality. And remaining pottery firms disclose glimpses of the design and craftsmanship admired throughout the city’s history. The founding father of Stoke’s global

Women on their mettle

Edwardian Park Lane was lined with grand houses. The occupants, conspicuous consumers and domestic servants, acted out layers of deception. Gamblers ruined Victorian fortunes. Gaiety and social graces masked the insecurities of the new rich and their struggles for acceptance in London. Upstairs, married women, harnessed by corsets and discretion, embodied compliant game. Downstairs, actually

Trading places | 3 December 2011

Thirty years ago Sir Keith Joseph, portrayed by Sir Ian Gilmour, a fellow minister, as owning ‘a Rolls-Royce mind without a chauffeur’, sent a newly published book to every Cabinet colleague. Most groaned, some murmured oaths, and a lucky few skimmed it. The book was English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit (1850-1980)