Great English country houses often appear in the books that I write, and I'll freely confess that the theatrical grandeur of William Kent's designs for Houghton Hall have inspired several of those fictitious houses.
Houghton Hall was built by Sir Robert Walpole, later 1st Earl of Orford. Walpole was a statesman who rose to become Britain's first prime minister, and he wanted his house to reflect his taste, his power, his wealth, and his ambitions. The house itself was designed by architect Colen Campbell in a restrained Palladian style, but the extravagant interiors – including everything from the painted ceilings to the furniture and the silverware on them – were the work of William Kent (c.1685-1748).
Kent was one of the Georgian era's most creative individuals, with talents that included architecture, painting, landscape architecture, and furniture design. The important commission for the interiors of Houghton Hall, begun around 1725, took nearly ten years to complete; this video is only seven minutes long, but it does give you a glimpse of the extravagant imagination of William Kent as well as the lavish lives of the early Georgians.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.