When the weekly magazine was launched in 1897 it incorporated Racing Illustrated and, as well as the golf and racing content, there was a detailed and illustrated feature on a country house, castle or historical building – its architecture, history and descriptions of the property’s interiors and gardens.
In short, this is a dream for today’s specialist archivists and researchers, and in particular bodies like the National Trust and English Heritage. And, of course owners of country houses.
Within this niche market, print dealer Alison Edwards runs Rostron & Edwards, an online business which specialises in antique prints, paintings, estate sale brochures and photographs. In 1988, she and her late business partner Trevor Rostron, who dealt in fine colour plate books, were offered a near complete run of Country Life magazines from 1897-1940.
Edwards said: “It was clear that there was a market for the early issues of Country Life that featured main articles on historic buildings, castles and country houses. We have supplied a lot of interior designers, also architects and restorers.
“Most recently a full set featuring Clandon Park from the 1920s went to the National Trust plus further issues and prints were supplied to the architects working on the Clandon Park restoration project with the Trust.”
The 18th century Palladian mansion near Guildford was destroyed by fire in 2015 and is described by the Trust as “its biggest conservation project in a generation”. Edwards added: “We source at auctions and country house sales with a lot of private buys and have a regular customer base for items we are always searching for.
“Although many of our pieces go to archives, many sell to private owners including some well-known names. We have supplied Damien Hirst with rare prints and books on Toddington, his home in the Cotswolds.
“Sales particulars from the 1840s featuring the Harewood End Estate in Herefordshire went to the Duchy of Cornwall, and we have sold rare prints relating to properties owned by Sir James Dyson and Sir Anthony Bamford. And many, many more.”