In two volumes on house architecture, published in 1880, J. J. Stevenson72 had much to say about the drawing-room, which he thought should be designed for conversation 'to favour the forming of the company into separate groups'. 'Unity of plan, he lectured, 'is an error', but many late Victorian and Edwardian drawing-rooms were wide, crammed, glittering and certainly united.
If possible, the drawing-room was placed so that it had the best view and received the southeast, or southern sun. The advantage of a southeast siting was that the full glare of the sun had passed by the time the late-afternoon carriage-callers came to tea. It was a room to be treated with some reverence. The young Augustus Hare, staying in 1851 with his tutor and many other pupils in an 'ugly brick villa ... in the pretty village of Southgate, about ten miles from London', noted that: 'a dinner-bell rings at half-past one, and the others come in from the drawing-room whither they adjourn before dinner, with the penalty of a penny if they lean against the mantelpiece, as they might injure the ornaments.
Hare's tutor, the Revd Charles Bradley, might choose to retreat from the niceties of afternoon tea, or the Greek grammar whisperings of his pupils, to his library. This was, however, frequently only a second sitting-room, a fact Loudon had commented on as early as 1833 in his Encyclopedia. Mrs Catherine Gore, in her novel The Diamond and the Pearl (1849), wrote that the family spent their mornings in the library and that there were: 'half a dozen work-tables and writing-tables being in play in various nooks of the room, with a praiseworthy activity of small-talk and Berlin wool.
But the library was normally a male preserve: it was, as Robert Kerr said in his book on planning the gentleman's house (1864): 'a sort of Morning Room for Gentlemen'. It housed all the richly gold-tooled bindings in 'Russia' or goat-skin, and often had (as at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, where Anthony Salvin equipped the library, 1854-65, with the help of Italian decorators), a smell 'as odorous as a private chapel'. But the nineteenth-century English gentleman was not a great reader, and in many small town houses there was no library at all. However, all such houses had a dining-room, over which the owner presided, with an envious precision of etiquette and observance of precedence. As this attitude moderated in the 1870s there was a gradual move towards the company sitting at circular dining-tables, which could be extended with extra leaves. A good example was designed for Sir William, later Lord Armstrong, at Cragside, Northumberland," by Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912), one of the most influential domestic architects of the later Victorian period. It was made in oak by James Forsyth, along with a recessed sideboard and two settles for the sides of the inglenook. The effect was, of course, overpoweringly masculine, and most dining-rooms had this dark sombre appearance, exaggerated by their facing north or east. Dining in the sun was considered unpleasant until Edwardian times and Kerr pompously noted: 'Inasmuch as where there may be no state whatever in the habits of the family, there will be at least a little of that quality occasionally, in the act of proceeding to and from dinner.
Apart from a study or business room - sometimes called a 'justice room' because many gentlemen were 'justices of the peace' - and perhaps a breakfast or morning room, there were other rooms on the ground floor for playing billiards, smoking, or the storing of guns. The number of surviving late-eighteenth-century billiard tables by the Lancaster and London firm of Gillows shows how the game had increased in popularity from its fifteenth-century origins. The table itself, with its richly decorated oak frame, encasing the baize-covered slate bed, became a miniature expression of the Gothic style. Gradually, the billiard room became less of a male preserve: in November 1899 Maud Lyttelton recorded in her journal `b that, during her stay at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, she used to read by the fire in the billiard room while the men played. Many women also came to enjoy a game of mixed billiards.
Smoking was often forbidden in many mid-nineteenth-century houses and as cigar-smoking became popular many hostesses found the pervasive smoke intolerable. When H. H. Emerson painted'' Lord Armstrong and even the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) smoking cigars at Cragside, Northumberland, they were outside on the terrace. It had, however, been recognized that such a 'solution' was not always possible so smoking rooms remained, although they were separated from other parts of the house. At Castle Carr, near Halifax, the billiard room" opened out into the smoking room and these, together with the library, were in a wing of their own.
As shooting parties became more organized, from the 1860s onwards, it proved no longer convenient to clean guns in the butler's pantry. Kerr considered that a gun room was 'indispensable in a country house of any pretensions'. There was a gun room on the second floor at Cragside, Northumberland, but it was usual for it to be easily accessible from the grounds - so much so that Lady Carbery's 'uncle Philip' even made a proposal of marriage there; despite the unusual location for a young lady, it was successful.
The Victorian conservatory was not usually regarded as a room of the house and many writers ignored it. However, at Flintham, Nottinghamshire, the Italianate palm house by Thomas Hine (1853-7) is an integral part of Lewis Wyatt's building, having vistas through it from two floors. Normally, conservatories, with their filigree architecture, were ill-suited to being placed adjacent to the solid frame of the house, and their warm, moist air was considered by some to be dangerous to health. Nevertheless, many were connected to the house by corridors and some even opened into the drawing-room. At Harlaxton, Lincolnshire, in about 1840, William Burn put a large double conservatory on the south-east of that great extravagant house. This was heated by its connection to the house's hot-air system, which was fed by coal and wood brought on a small service railway to the top of the house, where it was lowered to various collection points. It was a sanctuary for plants that could not survive outdoors. The Edwardian idea of a conservatory was to give some protection to plants and to open the room to sun and air, using it in the summer months as an 'outdoor' diningand sitting-room.
From medieval times the hall had been the main room that was entered first, and its placing therefore affected the planning of the house at an early stage. In the Victorian house the hall was often regarded as a large family sitting-room, suitable for musical evenings. There are many Victorian views of families gathered around the imposing fireplace or piano in the hall. At Wallington, Northumberland, the hall was a space used frequently for tea, which had not been the intention of its architect, John Dobson (17871865), of Newcastle. He designed it in 1853 as an open courtyard and it was only roofed in 1855, at the suggestion of Ruskin, who painted its piers, helped by Pauline, Lady Trevelyan and her friends.
One of the grandest halls is A. W. N. Pugin's 'medieval' hall at Scarisbrick Hall, Lancashire, which lies on the south front and has two great canted bays supporting oriels and a tall lantern providing light. The hall has the inscription: 'This hall was built by me, Charles Scarisbrick, MDCCCxLII, Laus Deo'.'0 I prefer it to the great space created by Anthony Salvin (17991881) in his last major house, Thoresby Hall, Nottinghamshire, 1863-75. Here, the basement hall has a staircase that rises to the light of the arcaded great hall, and to the principal rooms on the piano nobile level. It runs 70 ft across the north front, with four reception rooms at its back, on the south side. One of its lavish rivals is Thomas Allom's strictly Gothic hall (entered from a vaulted entrance hall) of 1862 at Highclere Castle, Hampshire, a house of 1840-50 designed by Sir Charles Barry. Thomas Allom (180472) was an accomplished draughtsman and took over at Highclere at Barry's death in 1860.
The hall was usually the place for the staircase to rise from, but at Knightshayes Court, Devon, designed by a good medievalist, William Burges (1827-81), and built in 1869-74, the teak staircase was at first hidden from the hall behind a screens passage (removed in about 1914). It was an effective imitation of early traditions by Burges for patrons who were anxious to re-create, in their own minds at least, a vision of themselves as medieval lords, served by a docile peasantry.
The architect Richard Norman Shaw was an ardent advocate of a house having a good hall, and at The Hallams, Shamley Green, Surrey, 1894, he created a grand one rising through two storeys with a gallery 'looking down into the hall from amidst the tie-beams'." He had restored the hall at Ightham Mote, Kent, in 1872 with new panelling, doors and fireplace, whilst at Cragside the entrance hall he created led up past richly tiled walls to a top-lit picture gallery.
The upstairs areas of a house were usually simpler to plan than the ground floor, as bedrooms could be reached from a landing or corridor. The principal bedroom needed a dressing-room, and should, Kerr thought, not be less than 24 ft by 18 ft in size. These modest dimensions were frequently exceeded, the size being partly governed by the size of reception rooms and the position of bearing walls below. The ceiling could be as high as 14 or 15 ft in order that four-post beds should have adequate head space, and that the great dressed windows and satinwood wardrobes might be disposed correctly, and not dwarf the draped toilette and brass-inlaid writing-table. Such bedrooms had, as one visitor of 1852 put it: 'all the perfection of comfort'." Rooms for guests or single members of the family were either on the second floor, or above a wing. The long bachelor's wing at Cannon Hall, Yorkshire, had its neat array of grained deal doors to the corridor, and windows looking out to a back court. Reached by a backstairs, these bachelors' rooms were usually very comfortable, with their open fireplaces - a male 'sanctum', although smaller and lower than the best bedrooms in the house.
As early as 1833 J. C. Loudon had indicated in his Encyclopedia that nurseries should be 'on the bedroom floor, in a retired part of the house' and that they should be 'light and airy apartments'. This arrangement was rarely followed from about 1860, when the nursery area was often over a service wing, convenient for the preparation of food and for keeping noisy children out of the way of adults. By Edwardian days, the nursery had become incorporated into the main block, in an area hitherto given over to the principal bedrooms. At Eaton Hall, Cheshire, in the 1880s, the second floor of a private wing was allotted to the children, set above the first-floor quarters of the Duke and Duchess of Westminster. This second floor had its schoolroom, day- and night-nurseries and six other bedrooms. The wing, with its moderate scale, meant that family life could be separated from the vast spaces of Waterhouse's house, which the Daily Telegraph described in 1899 as 'one of the most princely and beautiful mansions that these islands contain'.
The duke and his second wife, 'Katie' Cavendish, were deeply religious. There were prayers each morning in the private chapel, attended by the whole household. After prayers, the household filed out, in order of rank. A list" of the Eaton staff in the later nineteenth century shows 346 servants, divided between inside and outside duties. Apart from a chef, there was a head kitchen maid, two kitchen maids, two scullery maids and a kitchen porter. The housekeeper controlled the head housemaid, nine other maids, the sewing, scullery and the two still-room maids, and the Duchess of Westminster's two ladies' maids. In addition, the total included fourteen people who dealt with laundry, three coachmen and twelve grooms dealing with the horses and coaches (as well as thirty men and boys working for the head groom), forty gardeners, seventy foresters, forty farm workers and seventeen tradesmen. The house steward controlled two grooms of chambers, a valet, under-butler, three footmen, a pantry boy, a hall usher, a night watchman and an odd-job man. It was a mighty team, able to serve and feed their master, his wife and their family and guests, and themselves be housed, fed and paid. Kerr summed it up: 'Every servant, every operation, every utensil, every fixture should have a right place and no right place but one.