Historic Houses Handbook

2018-03-14-0001The Historic Houses Association has been rebranded as Historic Houses. Our Historic Houses Handbook arrived this week in its new format, perhaps reminiscent in style of the handbook for Historic Scotland.

The handbook is arranged around regions: London and the South East; South West and Channel Islands; East, West Midlands; East Midlands; Yorkshire; North West; North East; Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland. Entries are in numerical order and provide postcode (useful for the SatNav, though there is a mention of ‘good-old-fashioned map reading’ in the section on ‘Using this book’), location and opening information. There is a subtle colour theme for each section but perhaps a footer or header would help with the navigation.

There is a marked improvement in the guide and I look forward to using it to explore ‘new’ properties during the coming year.

Spring at Ickworth

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Ickworth © David Gill

Spring has arrived at NT Ickworth. New-born lambs abound, and there are stunning lines of tulips in the walled garden, and swathes of daffodils in front of the rotunda. The woodpeckers were active and added to the atmosphere.

Bryan H. St.J. O’Neil and his contribution to guidebooks

Caerlaverock Castle © David Gill

Caerlaverock Castle © David Gill

Bryan H. St. John O’Neil (1905-54) held the position of Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Wales and then Chief Inspector. He steered the Ministry through the difficult post-war years. He prepared a number of key guidebooks for sites in Wales, England and Scotland.

1951 (repr. 1954)

1951 (repr. 1954)

1943 (repr. 1963)

1943 (repr. 1963)

His early guidebooks cover Peveril Castle (1934) in Derbyshire, a site that came into state guardianship in 1932. In the same year he published a guide to Dartmouth Castle (1934) in Devon [e-copy], though this was followed by a shorter paper guide in 1951. A more detailed study of the defences of the Dart was published in the Society of Antiquaries in 1936 (Dartmouth Castle and Other Defences of Dartmouth Haven). The third in his guides of English castles was on Clifford’s Tower (1936) in York.

In 1936 O’Neil succeeded C.A. Ralegh Radford as Inspector in Wales. However his first guidebook for a site in Wales was Criccieth Castle (1934). The monument had been placed in state guardianship in 1933. In the same year Talley Abbey was placed in the care of the Office of Works, and O’Neil, now Inspector for Wales, wrote the guidebook (1938). A further Welsh castle studied by O’Neil was at Newcastle, Bridgend (1949). This had passed into state guardianship in 1932.

1949 (repr. 1952)

1949 (repr. 1952)

In 1945 O’Neil had become Chief Inspector. After the Second World War he excavated on the Isles of Scilly and published a collective guidebook on Ancient Monuments of the Isles of Scilly (1949). This included three prehistoric sites and three Civil War defensive structures.

(repr. 1975)

(repr. 1975)

He then prepared guides to two of the castles of the Cinque Ports, Deal (1953) and Walmer (1949).

Audley End

Audley End (1955)

The house at Audley End (1950) in Essex was purchased for the nation in 1948 and O’Neil prepared the guide. (There had been a possibility that Audley End would be placed with the National Trust.)

1975 (8th impression)

1975 (8th impression)

O’Neil’s responsibilities also include Ancient Monuments in Scotland. He prepared the guide for Scalloway Castle (1950) in Shetland, and Caerlaverock Castle (1952).

1954 (5th impr. 1960)

1954 (5th impr. 1960)

O’Neil’s main interest was in castles. He prepared An Introduction to the Castles of England and Wales (1954) that formed a companion to the six Regional Guides to Ancient Monuments (I: Northern England; II: Southern England; III: East Anglia and Midlands; IV: South Wales; V: North Wales; VI: Scotland). This guide to castles continued as the revised Department of the Environment Guide.

Castles (1973)

Castles (1973)

I have not included a discussion of the other guidebooks O’Neil prepared for the Channel Islands (Castle Cornet, Guernsey [1952]), the Isle of Man (Castle Rushen [1951]) and Ghana (Report on Forts and Castles of Ghana [1951].