Cover image for No voice from the hall : early memories of a country house snooper
No voice from the hall : early memories of a country house snooper
Harris, John, 1931-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : John Murray, 1998.
Physical Description:
xiii, 242 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA660 .H37 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This volume recounts an odyssey through country houses in the years after World War II. Between 1946 and 1961 the author visited over 200 houses, becoming aware of the riches they contained, which were under threat from demolition men and dealers. He describes Nikolaus Pevsner being mistaken for the gas-meter-reader; reveals a secret hoard of porcelain at Slindon; and the curious discovery of an Alsatian in the bath at Draycot Cerne. In a dining room the family protraits still hang on the walls, and the Meissen stands in a cabinet, yet the centre of the room is piled high with turnips. Using archive photographs, the book describes country houses in their death throes, as mahogany staircases burn in the park and rococo ceilings shatter beneath the hammer.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

From 1946 to 1961, Harris, a Londoner who has written books about architecture, gardens and the decorative arts (The Palladians, 1982) visited more than 200 English country homes that had fallen into disrepair. Ownership of such estates, he writes, first declined as a way of life in 1870, during the agricultural depression, and was further weakened when war death duties were imposed after the Armistice of 1918. On his own since the age of 13, Harris was taken to his first house sale by a bachelor uncle who was his fishing companion. His appetite whetted, Harris supported himself with odd jobs when he was not on the dole and managed to hitchhike across England to view one magnificent architectural ruin after another, many of which had been used to quarter the military during WWII and were now scheduled to be demolished. He recounts many anecdotes of how he wangled his way into both occupied and vacant houses by inventing a relationship with the former owners, pretending to own a painting of the house or simply breaking and entering. Although some of his adventures are amusing and Harris effectively conveys his horror at the wanton destruction of many of England's architectural treasures, his writing, which ranges from matter-of-fact to arid, is not compelling enough to intrigue those who do not already have an interest in old English country houses. 82 b&w photos. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved