Saturday, 1 November 2008
The sheer scale of stately homes
Big: to wander through the rooms and halls of a stately home is to be struck by the scale of the architecture: ceilings twice as high as a normal house; corridors three times the length and so on. I used to think that this was a simple matter of using stone to brag: 'I am considerably wealthier than thou ... see, I can afford to build bigger.' But recently I've come to doubt this: size doesn't correlate simply to wealth (aircraft hangers; tesco; farmer's barns); indeed, increasingly it is location rather than size that connotes wealth. So I have a new theory: the point of these huge rooms is precisely to make the person inside them feel small ... which is to say, to feel like a child. It is architecture as a sort of time machine; not back through the ages but back to a happier, simpler, smaller time. Me, now, in the hall of Syon House = me, age six, in the front hall of my parents' home.