How could a family keep up a house and estate this large? Such a question plagues the families who have the responsibility of great houses, though probably just a few with a property near this size. Many houses have been presented to the National Trust, but the Trust requires that properties given to them be accompanied by a large endowment for their maintenance and operation. Public funds are available to houses based on their historical significance, their degree of need, and the necessity of opening to visitors (which in itself involves many expenses for washrooms, parking, guarding, refreshments, repairs, etc. etc.).
Blenheim Palace attracts many visitors in itself, but never enough paying customers just to see the house and gardens. So, like many other stately homes in Britain, the estate is now a business, home to all sorts of events.
John Spencer-Churchill, 84, the 11th Duke of Marlborough, and his 4th wife, Her Grace Lily, Duchess of Marlborough
The Blenheim Horse Trials are justly famous, but only one of many sporting events held on the grounds. To amuse the children, the 11th duke began a railway, a maze, the Butterfly House, an adventure playground and the Churchill Exhibition.
The estate is the venue for all sorts of concerts, fairs, sporting events and can be hired for weddings.
Bike Blenheim is one of many charity events. Or attend one of the flower festivals, antique or craft shows, art exhbitions, and more.
Sad to say, but apparently true, the historical and cultural treasures of the great country estates with their incredible gardens -- all these riches are not enough to attract sufficient numbers of paying customers to meet the bills. One has only to think of how many stately homes are now part of schools and colleges, hotels,
country clubs, or worst of all, demolished. In the latter category are hundreds of once thriving estates dating from the time when owning land was the key to wealth.
One more opportunity for earning money is to serve as the setting for movies and television programs. You have seen parts of Blenheim Palace and its grounds in scenes from many films, such as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, The Young Victoria, The Oxford Murders, and currently filming, a version of Gulliver's Travels.
The Blenheim Railway
David Littlejohn wrote a book called The Fate of the English Country House in 1997. If you are interested in this complicated set of issues (private fortunes vs. public support, national heritage vs. contemporary welfare, etc. etc.), find a copy of Littlejohn's book. You'll never tour quite the same way again.
Or go to this website for the story of 1,776 demolished country houses. It's a sad story.
But aren't we lucky that so many wonderful estates remain for us to visit. We'll blog about more soon.
Labels: Stately Homes, Victoria Hinshaw