Often the only visible sign of a once grand country estate is the lodge or gate house. Although their main function was to provide shelter for the estate worker who opened the gates, these fine little buildings were often designed by the same pre-eminent architects who were working on the main house. Far from being an afterthought, these houses were often strongly imbued with the overall architectural style of the estate and were seen as an important way of announcing the status of the estate and power.
The destruction of country houses in the 20th century Britain was a phenomenon brought about by a change in social conditions during which a large number of country houses of varying architectural merit were demolished. There were a number of reasons: social, political and most importantly financial. Since 1900, 1,200 country houses have been demolished in England and it was not until the 1960s that historians and public bodies began to change our attitudes to towards saving our national heritage. Today stricter legislation has saved many more of our British country houses from demolition.
But whilst many of these fine country homes have been lost and little remains of their existence, remarkably their gate and lodge houses still survive. With each example providing a unique record of the construction techniques used and the stylistic trends of an era.
Image: Sopley Park, Dorset.