Can You Recognize These Stately English Homes From a Single Picture?

By: Zoe Samuel
Image: JohnGollop/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

"The stately homes of England! How beautiful they stand!" Thus sings Noel Coward in his ode to the mighty manor houses of England. Stately homes are not a specifically British phenomenon--they are all over Europe--but they definitely have a strong association with England in particular. From Highclere castle, the star of "Downton Abbey," to West Wycombe Park featuring in "Daniel Deronda" and "The Importance Of Being Earnest," to Kenwood House being in, well, pretty much all the movies, these buildings are national treasures.

Thanks to upkeep costs and the moving of capital from the land into the cities, most stately homes are now a drain on the family finances. This means that they are either given to the nation, or they are run as a business. That is, the house and outbuildings may charge for visitors. Facilities often include a golf course, safari park, hotel, wedding venue, livery stable, corporate retreats, hunting and fishing, and of course, the chance to see the house itself and enjoy its history and art. Some of the more successful stately homes employ up to 500 local people in quality jobs, providing employment in regions that have often seen their share of other jobs disappearing. Thus, even the ones in private hands continue to be vital to their community and used by many more people than just the owner.

This means it is now quite rare for a stately home to be just a plaything for a single rich family, and most are open to the public at least some of the time--and that means you can visit them and get to know them. But are you truly familiar with them? Let's find out!

Chatsworth is the ancestral home of the Duke of Devonshire, though it is in Derbyshire (this is probably due to an ancestral typo). It is the inspiration for Mr. Darcy's home, Pemberley, in "Pride & Prejudice", and is thus one of the most famous stately homes.

Woburn Abbey is a short drive from London, and also accessible by train. It is the ancestral home of the Russell family, who are the Dukes of Bedford. The Russells have a number of titles and descend from Mary Boleyn (sister of Anne). You can visit part of the Woburn estate in central London, just by going to Russell, Bedford or Tavistock Square.

Beaulieu is pronounced "bew-lee", and it is a smaller stately home on the south coast. While the house is very lovely, there are two things to visit on site that really stand out. One is the auto museum, where you can see the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and many other cars. The other is the spy school where British spies were trained to sabotage Nazi communications and operations before crossing the Channel to join the war effort!

Blenheim is pronounced "blenn-em", and it is a palace built by the first Duke of Marlborough for his wife. You may recognize it is Churchill's childhood home, or as the home of the title character from "The Scarlet Pimpernel" series.

Windsor Castle is property of her Majesty, and she spends a lot of time there. Windsor Castle is just half an hour from central London on the train, and extremely easy to reach. It's one of the largest inhabited castles in the world.

Sandringham is where the royal family typically go on weekends. It is in Norfolk, a very flat county on the east coast. Fans of the royals often get to chat to them by showing up at the local church on a Sunday morning.

Blair Castle is home of the Duke of Atholl, who is the only man in the UK permitted to have his own army (after all, someone has to defend the Pass of Killiecrankie from the clans ... apparently). The castle defends the most important pass in the Highlands and is part of the 51,000-acre Blair Atholl estate. For scale, that is 3.5 times the size of Manhattan Island.

Belvoir Castle was not built as a real castle; that is, it is not a defensible fortress. It was built by the 5th Duke of Rutland as recently as 1801 for his beloved wife, and it is supposed to look like a fairytale palace instead of a boring regular stately home. Its golden stone, chapel, and crenelated towers mean it perfectly fits the bill!

You probably recognize this house, which has been in dozens of movies. West Wycombe Park is the family seat of the Dashwoods, a family particularly notable for being descended from Francis Dashwood, 11th Baron le Despencer, who was the founder of the Hellfire Club. Benjamin Franklin himself (yes, that one) is believed to have visited Dashwood at this house where they descended into the Hellfire Caves to undertake all sorts of naughty rituals. Today, you can easily visit this house on a day trip from London and see the caves for yourself.

Highclere is not a fortified castle, but it is called that anyway due to its shape. It is the home of Lord and Lady Carnarvon, but it is universally recognized as the title residence from "Downton Abbey". Highclere made so much money from the series that the owners were able to undertake a very overdue renovation, and it is now in great shape.

This ridiculously enormous stately home is located in South Yorkshire, which is a problem as tourists can't get there easily. Wentworth Woodhouse has the biggest frontage of any stately home in the UK, meaning its upkeep is impossible for anyone to afford. As a result, it was sold to Chinese investors who then realized they'd bought a lemon and dumped it. Now it belongs to itself and its community, care of the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust.

149 Piccadilly is the real address of this house, but ever since it belonged to the first Duke of Wellington (aka the Iron Duke himself), it has been known as "No.1 London". It towers over Piccadilly Circus and it contains one of the best art collections in the world. Definitely worth a visit!

Belton House is recognized by Jane Austen buffs, as it played the role of Rosings Park, the home of villainous Lady Catherine de Burgh. Lady de Burgh lives in Kent, but the "real" Rosings is in Lincolnshire, much further north.

Castle Howard is the residence of the Howard Family, whose ancestor Catherine Howard was the beheaded fifth wife of Henry VIII. It played Brideshead in the adaptation of the Evelyn Waugh novel "Brideshead Revisited", and has been open to the public since 1952.

Lyme Park is in the Peak District in the county of Cheshire, so not too far from Derbyshire where Mr. Darcy "really" lived. This house is home of the famous swimming scene where Colin Firth jumped into a lake and made a million people fall in love with him.

Hardwick Hall was built by Bess of Hardwick and is a fine example of Elizabethan architecture. It is a National Trust property, which means that nobody lives there, and it instead serves the community. If you are a member, then it belongs to you!

Set in the Home County of Hertfordshire, Knebworth is a pretty darn cool house. It's one of the older stately homes, hailing from the very first time that England was safe enough to build your manor without fortifying it. Every summer the house hosts rock concerts, which is a lovely way to see it!

An Elizabethan-era manor house, Burghley is home to a film festival, sculpture garden, and many other sights to see. The roof is lead, as is traditional of the time, and covers three-quarters of an acre!

Avebury Manor is a relatively small stately home and property of the National Trust, so easy to visit. It is very near all sorts of 5,000-year-old barrows and other ancient sites. Check out nearby Avebury Stone Circle, a much less famous but equally dazzling site similar to Stonehenge.

Floors Castle is part of a 50,000-acre estate belonging to the Innes-Ker family, who are the Dukes of Roxburghe. Its crenelations are the source of the "castle" in its name, but it is actually just a regular stately home; that is, you could definitely knock it down with a cannonball (not that you would).

Milton Manor is a very stereotypically Queen Anne-era house that is on the main commuter route to Oxford. Unlike the other homes on our list, this house is only open in the summer. The rest of the year, it is a private residence that is fully lived in, so don't just show up without checking if it is open! They'll probably let you in anyway, but you never know.

Gorhambury was built by the third Viscount Grimston, and is still home to the Grimston family, whose title these days is Earl of Verulam. The previous Elizabethan house on the site is now a ruin, and there are also Roman ruins nearby. The whole Gorhambury estate is very easy to reach by train from London.

This stately home is in Liverpool, though it was not always in the town. This means it is very easy to reach by public transit. Speke Hall is a National Trust property, so you can visit whenever you like, and it is a breathtaking example of the traditional Tudor beam and plaster construction.

Bodrhyddan Hall is home of Lord Langford and is sometimes open to the public. The house enjoys exceptional formal gardens, and while it does not have a ghost, it does have a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy!

They say that, "Behind every great fortune is a great crime". This is not always true, as most of the houses in this list show—they are mostly built with money from coal, wool, timber, and other local land-based fortunes. Harewood House cannot make this claim. It was built by Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood, who made his fortune in the interconnected industries of the sugar trade and the slave trade. Thus, while it is unlikely that any enslaved person ever set foot within it, this particular stately home is a house built on slavery.

Holkham Hall is one of the great "Treasure Houses", noted for their magnificent art collections. It stands in a 25,000-acre estate (just under twice the size of Manhattan). As with many stately homes, Holkham's owners are heavily engaged in conservation projects.

Hatfield Palace is where Elizabeth I was supposedly sitting under an oak tree in 1558 when she received news that her sister Mary I had died, and she had become Queen. The house is currently the property of the Cecil family and is thus home to the Marquess of Salisbury, which is the family title.

Hever Castle is the home where Anne Boleyn grew up. It dates back 700 years and is a fully fortified castle, but it is also a stately home by virtue of being a country residence. It nearly fell down due to neglect, but was bought and revived by an American-born aristocrat, William Waldorf Astor, who restored it beautifully.

Blyth Hall is the seat of the Dugdale family, who still live in it today, as carving on the outside of the buildings show. It is a private residence and not easy to visit. The Dugdales have an ancestor with a minor role in one of Shakespeare's history plays.

Mellerstain House is the home of the Earl of Haddington, and it is near the border between Scotland and England. It took nearly 50 years to complete, which is hardly surprising given the size of it! The house is particularly noted for the intricate plasterwork of its interiors.

Longleat is the residence of the Thynn family, whose title is Marquess of Bath. The house is run by its heir, Viscount Weymouth, whose wife Emma hails from an eminent Nigerian family and is the first black viscountess in the English aristocracy. The Weymouths run Longleat's famous safari, which dates back several generations. "The Lions of Longleat" were one of the first attractions at a stately home, and marked a change in the houses' attitude, as they began to transform from expensive millstone to family business.

Unlike most houses in our list, Witley Court was never rescued from disrepair, and now it is a beautiful ruin. There are still great reasons to visit, including especially beautiful gardens and seeing the ruin itself. It is the property of English Heritage, meaning that it is open and easy to visit.

Hampton Court is a very fine palace that once belonged to Cardinal Wolsey. He gave it to Henry VIII, who at the time was a good friend, but the king later repaid his generosity by chopping off his head. Hampton Court was where Henry and Queen Anne lived during their relatively brief marriage.

Adjacent to Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House is a popular filming site due to its incredible beauty and proximity to central London. It was built for the first Earl of Mansfield, and just as some stately homes have a horrible history related to slavery, Kenwood House is the opposite. Mansfield, a judge, was a key figure adjudicating on several cases that brought about the end of slavery in Britain, and later the transatlantic slave trade in its entirety.

Chartwell was Churchill's house for some 40 years, as he was not the heir to Blenheim, where he was born. He spent many happy years here and left it to the nation. By bequest of Churchill, the house is always home to a marmalade cat with a white bib and white paws, to be named Jock. The current incumbent is Jock VI, a fine marmalade cat. Thanks to his humble origins as a rescue, he is described by Chartwell's management as "a true modern rags to riches story".

This used to be an Augustinian Priory but was smashed by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. You can see part of the old ruin attached to the modern house. Since then, it was lived in by Lord Byron, though he only spent six years here.

Baddesley Clinton is a National Trust property notable for its excellent moat, and for the fact that Catholic priests once hid in cubbyholes in its walls! The name comes from the Saxon, Baeddi, who first cleared trees for the site, plus the de Clinton family who built the house.

Attingham Park is a large stately home in Shropshire. It was once home to the Shropshire Adult Education College, starting in 1948, where women could get an education that would be denied them at many other educational institutions. Unusually, the college offered day care, so that mothers could study there, which must have been one of the most glamorous day care facilities imaginable!

As the descendants of the man who saved Europe from Napoleon, the Dukes of Wellington are some of the wealthiest and most titled lords in the aristocracy. Almost every European country in the Emperor's path gave them a title, and many gave money. This was supposed to go to the construction of "Waterloo Palace", a behemoth of a stately home on the site of Stratfield Saye. However, Wellington rather liked this more sensibly sized house, so he kept the money and just lived in the existing building.

The ancestral seat of the Spencer family, who are so aristocratic that their title and last name are the same, Althorp House is where Diana, Princess of Wales, spent her younger years. The Spencers have lived in the house for 500 years, an unusually long time for a single family to stay in a single home.

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