Friday, February 7, 2014

Wanted: Suitably Impressive London House to Rent for the Season

Location, location, location.  I’ve heard it said that’s the most important part of house buying, and as my husband and I consider downsizing, we’re finding it to be true.  But location wasn’t the only factor important to the families who went up to London for the Season in the nineteenth century, that time between Easter and the end of summer when anyone who was anyone ventured up to London for the rounds of parties, balls, and matchmaking among the upper class.  Families who were nobly born had a London house as well as an estate in the country and perhaps a hunting lodge somewhere they might reasonably expect to find small creatures to persecute, I mean hunt.  The rest of the aristocratic families did what many of us do today--they rented or leased.

Much of the land in London once belonged to large estates dating back to the middle ages.  The mighty families who owned these estates later developed them, keeping the land itself, but building houses on it they would then lease to suitably wealthy and pedigreed tenants.  For example, much of Mayfair, that area near Hyde Park devoted to the aristocracy in the early nineteenth century, was developed from lands belonging to the Grosvenor family.  

Some leases lasted only a Season.  Others lasted as long as a hundred years.  As you can imagine, if your family held one of those longer leases, generations would come to consider the house “theirs.”

Within these leased houses were several types.  There was the terraced house, must like today's townhouses, like these in Bath:

Most of these homes had only a few rooms suitable for entertaining.  They were perfect for sitting with a few friends and having a nice coz.  If you hoped to entertain, you would be better served to lease a larger townhouse with a small plot of land, enough for a garden, like Apsley House, home of the Duke of Wellington:

Such houses might boast a gallery suitable for a large dinner or perhaps a small soiree.  If you wanted to host your own ball, you’d have to locate a mansion with more extensive grounds.  This last type was the most rare in London, kept in the family so to speak, and was the most expensive to lease.  They might also be a bit outside London proper, like Holland House:

The larger the home, the larger the upkeep as well.  Larger houses required more servants, more furnishings and artwork.  Gardens required gardeners; stables necessitated grooms.  Sometimes smaller was more efficient.  However, larger was certainly more impressive.

So, what will your preference be, my lords and ladies?  What sort of home would you prefer this Season?


QNPoohBear said...

I want one of those terraced houses. I loved seeing them when I visited Bath.

Regina Scott said...

Those are my favorites too, QNPoohBear. I look at the larger houses and think, "Who's going to clean all that?" :-) Of course, if I could afford one, I could probably afford the staff to manage it as well!

J.Grace said...

I actually would prefer the second for the season. I like small garden and it's just a little less crowded.

Regina Scott said...

Good thought, J. Grace! A quiet garden and a little more space might be a welcome relief from the social bustle.