Bonus Episode 35 - The FALL of The Great English Country Houses

Jan 13 / Charlie Baxter

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What's this episode about?

In this episode Charlie and Ben come to the final episode in this miniseries of "The Great English Country Houses". This time they discuss the downfall of them, so this will help you understand why these country houses are now a thing of the past.

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Transcript of Bonus Episode 035 - Transcript

Charlie:
Hello and welcome to the British English podcast. The the show that helps you learn British English and British culture, but also other cultures. But today it's definitely about English culture and it's a history one. We have Ben Marks, the historian that lives Down Under back with us to complete the mini series on the great English country houses. Hello, Ben. How are you doing?

Ben:
Good, Charlie. How are you?

Charlie:
Yeah, I'm well.

Ben:
We're back a third time, pardon me. No. Well, I'm back in the room for a second time.

Charlie:
Oh, I see.

Ben:
We initially tried to sit down and do this all in one go, but it ended up being 2 hours for the first two parts. So we'll do the conclusion today, and.

Charlie:
It makes sense that it's the downfall...

Ben:
Yes.

Charlie:
...that we come back for. Yeah, yeah, we set it up.

Ben:
Did the set up. It's like a story. [Yeah], we did the set up, set the scene, got all the main characters involved. Then we played out the main sort of story. We talked about the servants and their quarters and the people who lived upstairs and how it all worked. And now we're here for the downfall. The conclusion of the story, so to speak.

Charlie:
Exactly.

Ben:
Very cinematic.

Charlie:
Yeah. Where do you feel like we need to focus our attention throughout this episode?

Ben:
Okay, so basically we're going to look at the reason for the end of these... this sort of country house lifestyle and the way that these aristocrats used to live. There are a couple of reasons for that. I mean, the fundamental reason is economic. There are some smaller, less important social causes for this. But yeah, we'll look at the economic causes for the end of this era. [Nice]. And just to recap, basically this era was at its peak, 1700s, 1800s, the very end of the 1800s and early 19th century, we started to see the decline and then the eventual end of this lifestyle.

Charlie:
Yeah. And being that it was such a long period of time, it's affected culture that we know of today. Right?

Ben:
We did go into that last two episodes. So if any keen listeners are on this third one first, go back to the first two. We imparted some very interesting information.

Charlie:
Yes, we did. We even included how Henry the Eighth died.

Ben:
Remember that one? I think so. Do remind me.

Charlie:
Well, not how he died, but when he died, his body blew up to the point where it swelled in the coffin because he was a large man. And then the liquid's burst [oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah] and then the dog, his dogs came and licked it up.

Ben:
That's disgusting. Yeah, it was well-deserved for- for that man, I think. [Yes] A well-deserved way of going out. So the houses we're talking about, in case you can't be bothered going back and listening to the first two, just in summary are basically the houses that you see in Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice, these huge vast estates, these enormous palaces that were the seats of the aristocrats in England, in the UK.

Charlie:
Yeah. And they, they serve a purpose now for tourists to go and visit.

Ben:
Well, yeah, they do. I mean there are some that are still still being lived in by the, the families that have lived there for hundreds of years. Case in point, Highclere Castle, which is the Carnarvon family, I believe. That's the castle that's used in Downton Abbey. They still reside there, but those houses are not sustainable in the modern world, so they open them up for tourism and they sort of live in a portion of the house and then the rest is open for tourism and, and you know, functions and events and and TV shows and all that sort of stuff. A lot of them are actually with the National Trust in England now. So they're part of the historical legacy of England. So they're kept open by the National Trust for tourists to visit.

Charlie:
Well, my parents can go and visit for free because they've got membership.

Ben:
Oh, well, I mean, that's the way to go.

Charlie:
I was thinking of The Gentlemen, the film that was released fairly recently as of this recording, and how they focussed on some people who had these great English country houses and they were in pretty much turmoil. They were struggling financially because things were falling apart and they had to fix them up.

Ben:
This really dives into the whole reason that this lifestyle ended. I mean, these houses were basically run by a small army of servants and they were huge, vast sprawling complexes and they had to be self-sufficient, They had endless rooms, they had dozens of bedrooms, loads of reception rooms, servants quarters, laundries, kitchens, cellars, basements, guest rooms, stables, carriage houses. I mean, they had everything, you know...

Charlie:
A long list.

Ben:
Yeah. And I mean, can you imagine they had all the water pipes, the roofing, they had to have their chimney swept, all the windows, the gutters, all of this stuff, even the gardens outside. There was a whole team of servants outside to upkeep the grounds. And so all of this is not possible really to upkeep in the modern day, but it was able to be done with a small army of servants back then, basically because the land owners made a lot of money. These are the people who owned the houses and the the staff were employed on shockingly low wages.

Charlie:
And how did they make loads of money?

Ben:
So basically they owned all of the land they'd inherited. It had been passed down from generation to generation. And if you want to know the history of that, go back to the first one of these podcasts. But they owned all the land and basically they rented out the land to their tenants. So farmers, shopkeepers, you name it, anybody who lives there and works there would pay the local lord essentially rent and tax. Now, that's how these landowners made so much money. It was almost passive income. It was passive income.

Charlie:
Right. And were these all in the country or were some of them like in a city kind of setting?

Ben:
These were I mean, for the most part, 99% of them, I suppose, would have been in the country. I mean, actually often these country houses would have a city counterpart, a townhouse in the city. You can see that today in places like Kensington and so forth and Mayfair and... What are the ones on the monopoly board, you know, the blue squares?

Charlie:
You've said Mayfair is a big one.

Ben:
Yeah. So those sort of there's one that sounds...I can't remember the name of it. Bel Belgravia. Belgravia. Yeah. Park Lane, Belgravia. All those areas in London. You'll see those big old terraces that have four levels. You know, when they travelled, they would bring a small amount of servants with them and the servants would have their quarters and kitchens and they would still host host dinners and things like that. Actually, that's where a lot of these landowners retreated to when they sold their properties eventually. [Ah!] Yeah, a lot of them got demolished.

Charlie:
I wonder what they... Do you know, what they did after that? You know, they went into the factories and started working with the their servants?

Ben:
No, no, I don't- I don't think so. I think a lot of them either just kept them- what remaining money they had and sort of invested it in stocks and things like that. But we can get into that.

Charlie:
Perfect. Yeah.

Ben:
Let's let's get into some- the reasons for the decline of this lifestyle.

Charlie:
Nice. Okay. So what was the primary reason that you think would be worth starting with?

Ben:
Well, it's actually a bit of a double whammy here. So it's twofold. Firstly, the landowners, they started losing their source of income and I'll go into why that is in a minute. So they stopped making the money that they used to make. And on top of that, the wages for the servants became unaffordable. Where previously they'd been paying them scandalously low wages, you know, and they would be working 16 to 18 hours, they would be getting basically almost slave labour. You know, it was a almost a tokenistic amount of money they paid them.

Charlie:
Right? But they were given accommodation and probably terrible food. But at least food.

Ben:
Yeah, but basically the wages and lifestyle for these servants, you would never get away with that today. And so those wages and expectations on hours increased at the same time as the landowners began to lose their sources of income. And we can go into why both of these things happened. It was a double whammy.

Charlie:
Yeah, okay. The prices for the servants went up.

Ben:
Yep. So basically to run these houses required a small army of servants, basically. If their wages go up, the cost of running the house goes up. Now imagine on top of that you also start to lose your source of income. So prices go up and you're earning less money. It's a double... It's a double financial blow.

Charlie:
Yeah, that's not good news by any means.

Ben:
No. I guess, you know, you can't make all this free money forever, can you? No.

Charlie:
Hard to feel sympathy for them.

Ben:
Yeah, I think they had a good run. [Yeah] They had a good run. So firstly, I'll go into why they started to lose their source of income. Why had this system that had been around for hundreds of years, why did this suddenly disintegrate?

Charlie:
Sounds good.

Ben:
Basically, there's a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, we saw the Great Depression of British agriculture. Now this was between the years 1873 and 1896. Now, this was a depression in Britain that occurred due to the dramatic fall in grain prices, due to the opening up of the American prairies to cultivation and homesteads in 1862. Now, the reason I say 1862 specifically is because during the American Civil War, which was 1861 to 1865, the Northerners opened up these prairies with the American prairies bill, which basically meant that the government gave away plots of land to farmers. Now, this...

Charlie:
In America.

Ben:
In America, all across the Midwest, spread it right across to the West.

Charlie:
Yeah. So that is the prairie lands, right? [Yeah], Like the...

Ben:
Through what's now the Midwest.

Charlie:
Yeah, the Midwest.

Ben:
Yeah. And so they did this in order to counteract the market force that had propped up America to this point, which was the slave owning properties in the South. So you've got to remember politically in America at this time, contextually, they were having the American Civil War.

Charlie:
With with the British Empire.

Ben:
No, no, no, no. The American Civil War was between the North and the South, and it was to do with slavery.

Charlie:
But the North was the British colonisation.

Ben:
You're thinking of the. The American War of Independence.

Charlie:
Oh, yeah, I am.

Ben:
Yeah, that was much earlier.

Charlie:
So then...

Ben:
That was when America separated from Britain. They gained independence.

Charlie:
What, do you know when?

Ben:
It was April 19th, 1775 to September 3rd, 1783. But that is nothing to do with the American Civil War. So...

Charlie:
Right.

Ben:
As interesting as that little piece of information is, let's let's not muddy the waters.

Charlie:
No, but let me just kind of summarise from my own brain, I'm imagining people go over to America from like Europe, England, Amsterdam area. They settle up, they figure out how to live on the coast, on the East Coast, and then they start to move in to the Midwest and then they have slaves come over. Right? At this same time?

Ben:
This much earlier on. Yeah. So America, basically the market forces of America before the Civil war were basically that the big plantation owners were the ones- the owners were the ones cultivating all of the crops that America sold. And they were doing it on the back of slave labour. So then the American Civil War occurred.

Charlie:
So hang on, they go over, they settle, then they bring slaves over to make it profitable for them, obviously, and terrible conditions for the slaves, hence the word. And then they fight the Brits and then they create independence and then they develop even further into the prairie lands. And then they are able to overtake the profit margins in England, right?

Ben:
No. So basically, all of that stuff before the American Civil War, which was 1861 to 65. To simplify it, let's just say America had its agricultural backbone based on slave labour. So then in 1861, the American Civil War started where the North fought to end slavery in the South, but they had to have a system of replacing their industry, so the market forces required them to continue to produce crops. So what they did was they actually- the North gave away millions of acres of land in the American Midwest to anyone who wanted to become a farmer so that they had an alternative industry to slave labour. Now, the consequence of this, the reason I tell you about this is because that spreading of of new homesteads and in conjunction with a few other things, such as the advent of cheaper transportation like the steamship, the combine harvester, things like this because of the industrial revolution, made it very cheap to export American grain. And so this very cheap American grain flooded the British market. The farmers who had traditionally in England, who had traditionally made all the money for the landowners, were suddenly going broke and couldn't pay the landowners anything. And they they left their farms and fled to the cities to start working in the factories.

Charlie:
Yeah. And it was a nicer life. Well, not great, but it was better than what the people in the houses could offer them, given a bit more freedom in their lives.

Ben:
Well, first of all, let's not confuse the tenants of the farm owners. They're not the people in the house. So the farmers are, and the tenants on the landowners land, that's where these big landowners derive their income, suddenly they were all fleeing to the cities, because...

Charlie:
Oh, okay.

Ben:
And so the landowners were no longer getting rent. So that's why they started to lose all of their money.

Charlie:
And they were going to the cities to do what?

Ben:
The farmers?

Charlie:
Yeah.

Ben:
To... Basically the Industrial Revolution had created a lot of factories and businesses in the cities with better hours and better working conditions and better pay so they couldn't make money on their farms anymore, so they fled to the city.

Charlie:
So would that be the servants and the farm owners ending up working in factories in the cities?

Ben:
Yeah. Eventually the servants went as well.

Charlie:
But I imagine those that are... They have a farm that they pay rent on. Wouldn't they go to a job that is more what we call white collar?

Ben:
Yeah, that's right. The Great British Agricultural Depression. They couldn't make money anymore because of this American grain flooding the market. So they packed up their things and they went to the city where they could earn money in these factories. Now, this is the primary reason that the landowners stopped making money. So all of their sources of income had come from these tenants and all the tenants had gone. The other reason, rather, was that the wages just became too expensive and there was no staff to work in the properties anymore.

Charlie:
And when you say too expensive, it's because the servants could get better pay elsewhere.

Ben:
That's correct. [Right]. The Industrial Revolution, although that started in the 1750s, it was a slow build. And so the rise of industry and factories saw people move to the cities and choose to live there and work for better hours and better wages, especially with the rise of unions. Now World War One is important in this. So in- during World War One, which was obviously 1914 to 1918, what we saw was the huge upscaling of factories for the war- for the war effort. So we saw the massive ammunitions, factories creating transport vehicles, food packages, everything, clothing, everything you could think of in these massive war efforts. It's the factories are going 24 seven, and they needed people to work in these factories and they were willing to pay.

Charlie:
And they've got such an incentive to do it as soon as possible.

Ben:
That's right. And so you've got a whole bunch of young male servants going off to the war as well to fight on the front line. So you had an entire generation rush off to this war because at the time we don't think of war like this, but at the time it was marketed as the great adventure. [Huh?] People didn't think that they were going to go and die in trenches. They thought they were going to go off and fight off the Germans. And it wasn't what they thought it was going to be, but it was advertised to every young man around the world, in the Western world, at least as this great adventure. Go see the see the world and and be back for teatime. And so they all left and they thought, Oh, I can get paid to go and visit all of these interesting countries on the continent. For many people at this time, that would be the furthest they would ever travel in their lives and they could have never dreamed of leaving their small village.

Charlie:
So almost, almost like how the adverts are on the TV for join the Army. Like you can have a great life adventuring all four corners of the world.

Ben:
Exactly. We still have that today, don't we? But we know today the horrors of war. But back then they didn't know. And don't forget, they'd been fighting the British up to this point. And Europeans had largely been fighting colonial wars, which were based overseas. Yeah, they'd go to Africa with a bunch of guns and mow down a tribe that was throwing fruit at them. You know, it was not a difficult war- style of warfare. You know, it was very different to what they experienced in World War One. You had this huge this whole generation sign up and also go and get killed. And then you also had everybody else working, maybe more of the older men and women working in the factories. Now, the other part of this was, right, that was firstly a massive drain on the ability to actually find the staff. But secondly, during the war, the unions became very powerful because they knew they stopped work for a day. That risks the war effort, you know?

Charlie:
Oh, I see. So small groups of people in the factories start to gather together and rally up against the man. [Yes.] And they say, all right, we're going to create what we call a union.

Ben:
Well, the unions already existed, but this really strengthened the unions because the unions had the power to pull the plug at any moment. So they were able to get much better wages, better hours. And it really revolutionised the working day.

Charlie:
I really want to ask when when did unions start?

Ben:
I would say the late 1800s, early 1900s. [Right.] But it was certainly World War One that really strengthened them. One of the things with the unions was that, like I said, they basically brought the hours down and the wages up. Previously in these houses, these staff were working sometimes 16 to 18 hour days for absolute pittance in really terrible conditions. And, you know, they were never given holidays. They were they were never given like really given sick leave. They they didn't have any of these benefits. It was a combination of those- all those factors that meant that these properties had no money left and the cost to actually run them skyrocketed because running them was essentially hiring servants and they couldn't hire them and the wages were too high and they were making... They weren't making money anymore off their off their tenants. Really. It saw the beginning of the end of this lifestyle.

Charlie:
Is this the beginning of the end of like the agricultural scene or industry in England?

Ben:
For a long time, yes. I don't have those stats in front of me, but I can tell you this between 1809 and 1879, 88% of British millionaires had been landowners, and between 1880 and 1914 this figure dropped to 33%, so that really shows you what an impact these factors had, especially the British Agricultural Depression.

Charlie:
Absolutely.

Ben:
The new wealthy elite were no longer British aristocrats, aristocrats, third time.

Charlie:
Is it an Aussie way of saying it?

Ben:
No, it's an American way, I think. And I it's just too much American TV.

Charlie:
Like the the word literature, don't you?

Ben:
Literature. Aluminum!

Charlie:
Aluminum.

Ben:
The new wealthy elite weren't British aristocrats anymore, but American businessmen such as Henry Ford, John de Rockefeller, etc. and they'd made all their money off industry rather than land, so...

Charlie:
In come the capitalists.

Ben:
Yeah, exactly. And by the late 19th century, British manufacturers eclipsed the aristocracy as the richest class in the nation. Yeah.

Charlie:
Is there anything other than, like, tourists coming to see it, which is way off into 21st century? Can they do anything with those lands? Could they think of another way of utilising them?

Ben:
Yeah, basically a lot of those houses got sold off. I mean, it really many houses were demolished actually in the forties and fifties. Some of these great sprawling estates, amazing houses were all, you know, were razed to the ground in the forties and fifties. Many, many, many of them. But some of them, which we still have today, were either still lived in. And it may be a hybrid situation, I think a hybrid situation for most of them that still have people living in them was fashioned. So what I mean by that is that the owners of the property, these families, would live in a portion of the house and then they would rent out the rest of the rooms for functions or might make it into a hotel or, you know, for movies, or they work out ways of utilising that space and making money out of it.

Charlie:
Right. Okay. I did actually see that they were claimed during the war as well. And the... Lots of army, not just the British army, but Americans would come over and they would stay in some of these country houses as shelter and they would abuse the homes. And there was one situation, extreme mistreatment, which was very strange. The owner was told to leave the premises and a whole fleet came in and took over or just, you know, sheltered there for quite a while. And then the owner came back and what he had done or they had done was board up all of the paintings that were worth thousands and thousands of pounds in hope that they would just cause a bit of mess, but not loads. And they came back and they pulled the the boards back and they were really relieved to see that the paintings seemed to be intact. Until they took a little closer look at the eyeballs and all of the eyeballs were missing. [Really?] And so for some reason, some person had taken down these boards and snipped out the eyeballs of every painting.

Ben:
What a weird, perverted thing to do.

Charlie:
And the weirdest thing was apparently on, like probably about 40 years later, the current owner on that in that day of the estate received a letter containing about 300 eyeballs, and it seemed that the person who had done it, on his deathbed in America, felt so bad that he sent them all back [What a...] to this country house.

Ben:
That is so strange, Oh my God! What sort of a maniac goes around doing that? That's a- that's an interesting story. But yeah, I did hear there was some acquirement of these houses. I think in wartime the government gets special powers where they can acquire certain things.

Charlie:
Yeah, and it sounds like eyeballs as well. So that's the end of part one. But we can talk more about all of this in part two and three. What have we got to come, Ben?

Ben:
Well, next I think we'll talk about the final death knell for this sort of lifestyle in these houses. What was the monumental event that really just shot this whole thing down? And I'll also tell you a little bit about some of the the smarter investors.

Charlie:
Oh, yes. And then in part three, maybe we could give them a few places to go and visit if they're in England and visiting a great country house.

Ben:
Well, that does sound like a great idea for something that you might be able to do on British English podcast for all of your listeners.

Charlie:
Perfect. Okay, so we'll say goodbye to part one listeners. Thank you very much, guys, and thank you, Ben.

Ben:
No worries. Good bye.

Charlie:
All right, See you in part two. We have come to the end of part one. So feel free to take a break from your listening practice, but if you're happy to keep going, then we're now moving on to part two of this episode. Thanks so much for being a premium or Academy member and enjoy the rest of the show.

Charlie:
All right. We are back in part two. This is the Premium and Academy lounge, so you can be absolutely appalling.

Ben:
We'll be a bit more casual in this one then, will we?

Charlie:
You could... You can take your trousers off if you want. Actually, you've got shorts on. We can get halfway there. So let's get to the final nail in the coffin for the great English country houses.

Ben:
Okay. Where were we up to? We were basically talking about how the houses couldn't afford the servants anymore, the wages went up, they weren't making any money anymore- the landowners. And, yeah, it was... A lot of them just couldn't survive. But there were some smart landowners who tried to diversify their money or make their money work for them by putting it into the stock market. And this was a... You know, have you heard of the Roaring Twenties?

Charlie:
No.

Ben:
So the Roaring Twenties were obviously it was the twenties, 1920s. It was a post-war boom. And it affected America, England, all the Western countries, really.

Charlie:
And isn't this the same time as the Great Depression?

Ben:
No. So basically in the twenties, the stock markets were going up and up and up and up. There were a lot of rich capitalist investors who basically decided to put all their money into stocks and the smarter landowners get financial advice to put their money into these stocks and they were able to make their money work for them again. [Okay] Well, not again. They never had their money working for them. They had someone working to give them money, but now they were making their money work for them rather than selling off heirlooms, priceless heirlooms and all this sort of stuff just to get another couple of years. They invested their money like, much like we do these days. But this was the final nail in the coffin for the vast majority of them, because you mentioned it before. What was the great calamitous event that happened at the end of the twenties?

Charlie:
The man that cut all the eyeballs out of the paintings. No, the Great Depression.

Ben:
Yes, we had the Great Depression in 1929 where all the markets collapsed. And so all of these landowners had had their money in stocks and when the Great Depression hit, everybody lost their money. And people who had great fortunes in stocks lost everything. This was basically the end for the vast majority of the ones who had just the ones who had survived. There had been... So many had been lost already, but the ones who were smart enough to invest their money had survived and now they were gone to.

Charlie:
Why did the Great Depression happen? Was it because of the end of the war? No.

Ben:
Well, the why, it's very. I mean, these are some complex financial reasons. But, I mean, in essence, the depression happened because of inflationary prices. Like, there's a lot of complex reasons for inflation. But basically you had this inflation on a mass scale all around the world, and there was a triggering event for that. But, you know, that's a podcast for another day.

Charlie:
Oh, I like that.

Ben:
Yeah. Oh, there we go. Leave them wanting more. Yeah. So basically that ripped apart all the great family fortunes that many had tried to invest. The other thing was a lot of the heirs to these fortunes had been lost in battle in the First World War.

Charlie:
Oh, yes, of course.

Ben:
Yeah. So the ones that did survive were often struggling anyway because they didn't have an heir, and there's the whole thing we talked about with the entail. And so there were some issues there. I mean, that was another complicating factor. Yeah. And so the way that a lot of these houses tried to survive as well, which... This is quite interesting and you can actually see it in Downton Abbey... There were these relationships formed of mutual benefit called them Dollar Princesses. So basically what would happen is the new breed of wealthy, the rich American capitalist industrialists such as, you know, the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts, they had limitless money, right? This is pre depression. They had limitless money and they wanted something else. They wanted to marry their daughters off to respectable British aristocratic families because they wanted that high society respectability. They could have all the money in the world, but they wanted was the most respect that they could gain. And they... The British aristocracy was seen as the route to that. What would happen is these British high society types would marry their these wealthy American industrialist daughters. They would receive vast amounts of money to keep their properties going.

Charlie:
Oh yeah. Yes. This appeared in films like in Bridgerton.

Ben:
It was extremely common in the start of the 19 1900s. That is... Actually the principal female character in Downton Abbey is the wife of Robert. She is an American dollar princess.

Charlie:
They're called a dollar princess.

Ben:
They're called dollar princesses. I don't know why they're called that. That is what they're called. So she represents that in Downton Abbey. Her family's fortune basically saved Downton Abbey. [Wow.] And that the show starts with her. So we can assume that... The show starts in 1912 and we can assume they would have got married in the 1890s or something. So houses were already struggling in the 1890s.

Charlie:
Right, yeah.

Ben:
And this fortune is... In the script, it's meant to be the fortune that saved them. And here's a fun fact. The heir to the Vanderbilt fortune married the Duke of Marlborough, and a Brooklynite named Jennie Jerome married a certain Lord Randolph Churchill. Do you know who Randolph Churchill is?

Charlie:
Oh, Churchill's father. [Yeah!] Whoa.

Ben:
So Churchill is half American. He is the son of a dollar princess. [Uh huh] Yeah. So how about that?

Charlie:
Yeah. Winston Churchill was half American.

Ben:
Yes. There's a fun fact for you about Dollar princesses.

Charlie:
Yeah, definitely. Is your mum a Dollar princess? Oh.

Ben:
Yeah. You just had prostitution going through your mind that entire time!

Charlie:
Not...!

Ben:
You've got to get that bit in.

Charlie:
Oh, so is she...?

Ben:
Yes. Oh, that was good. Is there anything else here I can talk about? One of the other sort of factors with another pressure that was put on these houses was a thing called a servant tax. Do you know what that is?

Charlie:
Sorry, this was a pressure put on those that owned country houses.

Ben:
This is a financial pressure. This is another factor that I didn't include before. But I'll... Got to basically fill three slots here. That's what she said.

Charlie:
We're well over. We've got plenty of material already. Okay, well, we'll just finish with this. Yeah. So I imagine they would have to pay money to the government or a percentage per servant that they have. Something like that?

Ben:
Yes, that's right. Now, this was started by William Pitt, the younger, I think, whose was a prime minister of Great Britain.

Charlie:
What was his name, William...

Ben:
William Pitt. And then there was William Pitt, the younger. They were both prime ministers, I believe. Now that I'm a bit scratchy on, but I'm pretty sure it was William Pitt the younger introduced the servant tax. Now, what this basically was, was a tax on, like you said, each male servant. So the landowner had to pay a tax per servant. Now, the reason that this was introduced, it was a money generating exercise for the government during times of war. So we're talking about specifically during the American Revolution in the 1770s and then the French Revolution and the Napoleonic conquests of the 1790s and 18 tens, and then European conflicts such as the Crimean War in the 1850s. Now, the reason that they wanted to raise this money is because the country needed soldiers and sailors. So now there's a lot of young men that work in these houses. Now they might make great, stable boys, footmen, coachman, gardeners and butlers and valets and all this sort of stuff. But you know what else? They make great soldiers and factory workers. The country needed soldiers and sailors and factory workers. If you were going to withhold those young men from service, you're going to pay tax on that.

Charlie:
Oh, I see. So it's like, pay us or give us your men to go to war.

Ben:
Yes. And then these taxes kept getting put up and up and up, especially during times of war. You know, in the Crimean War of the 1850s, I mean, this was a huge financial pressure. I mean, some of these houses had, you know, upwards of 30 servants, including gardeners and things like that. [Yeah] A tax on each of those during a time of financial pressure, that was just too much for some.

Charlie:
Yeah, well, it sounds like more than a double whammy. It's like quadruple whammy.

Ben:
Yeah. So there was a lot of mitigating factors with all of this.

Charlie:
Wow. Shall we go on to talk about the places that we think would be worth visiting?

Ben:
Yeah. Sounds good to me.

Charlie:
Perfect. Okay, let's go on to it. We have come to the end of part two now. So again, feel free to pause the episode to take a break from your listening practice and come back to the last part when you're ready.

Charlie:
All right. So moving on to part three now. Enjoy. All right. We're in part three now, so we're going to talk about the the great English country houses that we think you could go and visit if you are in the area. Have you been to one?

Ben:
Yeah. I can't remember what it was called. When I was in Europe, I did do a trip to Europe and I managed to get out of London for a day and now I have forgotten which I visited. [Right]. I think the reason I can't remember it is I went on a train with my mate and we just wanted to go to the edge of London, to the countryside, and just have a look for a day. I think we got off a train when we did, we just saw a massive estate and we said, Let's just get off here and have a look. And I've actually forgotten the name of it. I mean, it wasn't a destination one that you would go and visit, but I certainly visited all that I could around London.

Charlie:
Okay, well, guys, go and visit that one. Enjoy.

Ben:
Yeah. Anyway, see you next time. We hope you enjoyed this list.

Charlie:
Yes. A quick tidbit. You said when I visited Europe. Now, obviously being in Australia, the UK is... It is part of Europe, but Brits would never really say that. They wouldn't include the UK in that meaning.

Ben:
Yeah, I do understand that. I mean, I suppose we talk about it in conjunction with a Euro trip. That's how we think of that as a trip, right? So it's all inclusive. [Yeah.] For us in our mind when we think, We're going on a euro trip, where do we start? Every Aussie starts in London, right? But yes, I do understand that distinction.

Charlie:
I think I knew that you did. But for the listener, it's interesting for the cultural thing that Aussies kind of lump the UK with mainland Europe, but UK citizens of the United Kingdom would probably find it not rude, but we just identify as slightly separate from mainland Europe. [Yeah] Americans do it as well. They say when you go over to Europe and we're like, Say that we're the UK. It's probably just because we think that we're special.

Ben:
I'd say so, yeah.

Charlie:
Because we've got all these great English country houses.

Ben:
Yeah, that's true. It's funny, I had a... When I was in school, high school, when I was 15 we had these two Austrian girls come over for six months and I'm still good friends with one of them. I'm not good friends of the other, I just haven't seen her in a long time. But I still keep in contact with one of them. But anyway, I went and visited both of them in Europe on my euro trip and one of them told me that... We were talking about my euro trip and she said she'd always wished she hadn't been born in Europe so that she could do the euro trip like everybody else.

Charlie:
Uh, [yeah] yeah.

Ben:
We were just talking about Europe, so it just reminded me of that. But it's a funny thought that you don't visit... All the places that you live, don't seem special to you like they do to other people. The mystery of mainland Europe is not there. That sort of atmosphere isn't the same. And I totally got what she meant when she said that she wished she'd been born overseas so she would have that experience of doing a euro trip.

Charlie:
Yeah. Although, you know, that place she's not described, not labelling would be probably an interesting place to go and visit. Like wherever she means she would be overseas. It's another place that you can explore, like Australia.

Ben:
I said to her as well. I go, you realise that there's plenty of other places in Europe apart from Austria. And she said, Yeah, but it's just not the same.

Charlie:
Yeah. Okay. Brits also feel like we can go and do the euro trip or we call it the... We go inter-railing. I know you go inter-railing too. We're all on the same train. But that's what we would say. [Is that righ?] Oh I'm going inter-railing this summer. Oh, I'm so jealous!

Ben:
But Yeah, but you guys pop over to Paris for an evening.

Charlie:
Mhm. Less so than you think. We would go over to what I- My family- We used to go over to Calais and pick up loads of booze cheap and then come back and have like a bonfire party on in November.

Ben:
But isn't the Euro rail like 100 and something dollars?

Charlie:
The euro.

Ben:
No. Isn't the rail that gets you over there like some vast amount of money?

Charlie:
It's quite expensive for a full family.

Ben:
So doesn't, doesn't that negate the price that you saved on the liquor?

Charlie:
Oh no. We would be pikeys and go on the ferry.

Ben:
Really?

Charlie:
Yeah.

Ben:
All that just for some liquor. [Yeah]. Wow. Do you save those little, you know, in your mailbox how you can find, Like, you get those printouts of, like, a voucher that you can use one day of the year and you keep it in your wallet?

Charlie:
No, I hate that kind of thing. Even I've noticed it in Woollies here, the supermarket, they're always like, Scan your loyalty card. I find that really annoying. No, but I wasn't in control of my family of five being the youngest, so I would kind of tag along.

Ben:
Sounds like a fun adventure.

Charlie:
Yeah, it was. [Yeah] Just like the people that went to the Great War.

Ben:
I shouldn't laugh.

Charlie:
Yeah, I know.

Ben:
Yeah. You know, when you think about the naval warfare between the Brits and the French, right? We always think of it as, like, out at sea in the great ocean. It wasn't. It was in that tiny little stretch of relatively shallow water between England and France.

Charlie:
The channel is still pretty deep.

Ben:
Yeah.

Charlie:
You're definitely not going to be able to stand on the seabed.

Ben:
No, I know, but it's not like being out in a raging sea.

Charlie:
You die. You definitely die. It's. It's really far.

Ben:
See, I was thinking of it like a paddle pool. Can't you see, from the cliffs or something. You can stand...

Charlie:
Cliffs of Dover.

Ben:
You can... Yeah. Cliffs of Dover. You can see France.

Charlie:
You can, you can almost see the horizon. But that's. Isn't that 25 miles, the horizon?

Ben:
I don't know.

Charlie:
I think it is.

Ben:
No, I'm sure you can die there, but I mean it's not like, you know, when you're a kid, you think of it as this raging sea, but it's just the little channel.

Charlie:
Oh, not 25, 2.8 miles. Could you swim five k?

Ben:
If I trained, but obviously not back then.

Charlie:
Yeah, I'd still be shit scared. But some, like celebrities and athletes, have swum.

Ben:
Oh, look, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you wouldn't die in a naval battle out there. I'm just saying it's just like. It's just funny when you think about it in terms of scale.

Charlie:
Yeah. If you look at, like, the Pacific.

Ben:
The great naval battles happen in this tiny little channel.

Charlie:
Again, it's not tiny. It's not like the Thames.

Ben:
Speaking of the Thames, have you ever seen those paintings from the 1600s of when the Thames froze over for about four or five years and they, people actually set up houses and and markets and whole... They must have thought back then that it was frozen over forever. They set up entire like like a limited time only village.

Charlie:
Wow.

Ben:
Yeah, there's paintings of it. I mean, some of the great artists have done paintings of the Frozen Thames. You should look it up. It's great.

Charlie:
That's amazing. It sounds like another episode.

Ben:
Yeah, maybe we'll talk about that next time.

Charlie:
Right, so the places of interest for people who want to go and see a great English country house are...

Ben:
Basically what I did was I just looked up my two favourite filming locations from my two favourite English period pieces. So firstly, we've talked a lot about Downton Abbey and that is Highclere Castle. If you've seen Downton Abbey and you want to visit it, it is a grade one listed country house and it was built in 1679 with large renovations in the 1840s and it is now still lived in by the Carnarvon family. George Herbert, the eighth Earl of Carnarvon, that's the current owner, so the eighth Earl. And we went through all of those rankings, didn't we? [We did] Go and listen to that one. That's a good one. Yeah. It's amazing. If you haven't seen Downton Abbey, it's worth a watch. But yeah, you can go and visit that because I believe it is open to the public on certain occasions and it is located in...

Charlie:
Hampshire which is...

Ben:
Hampshire, yeah.

Charlie:
...west of London. You'll want to go beyond Reading, which is a city that is west of London. Keep going. And yeah, eventually you'll get to Highclere Castle. If you go if you reach Bath, you've gone probably 3 hours too far. So head back.

Ben:
Yeah. So that's actually that's a good one to visit. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Cause it's so close to London. You know, if you are in London, that's. That's a great one to go visit.

Charlie:
And I feel like that is pretty close to Stonehenge as well. Have you ever seen Stonehenge?

Ben:
No, I did not see Stonehenge.

Charlie:
Oh, you know what it is?

Ben:
Yeah, of course. Yeah. It's still the mystery as to how they erected that. [Yeah] That's what she said.

Charlie:
So top of the list is Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. I'm just going to read a stat here or some some information. When listing Britain's best stately homes, the website that I'm reading simply had to mention Blenheim, the sprawling Oxfordshire estate that was built for John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough. The palace was built on land gifted to Churchill by Queen Anne. Anne also awarded him £240,000 for his victory over the French in the war of the Spanish succession. It was at Blenheim, almost two centuries later, that one of the Duke's descendants, Sir Winston Churchill, was born of a dollar princess.

Ben:
There you go. We've just nicely tied in two things. It's great. [Yeah] Actually, that was very good. [Good!] It was well, well tied in. Blenheim Palace. I mean, I'm looking at a at a photo of it now. I mean, that is mental. I mean, that must be bigger than Buckingham Palace.

Charlie:
Yeah, maybe. I haven't asked for the the blueprints and the square footage of either, but we probably could find that on Google, couldn't we?

Ben:
Yeah. Have you ever seen... Slightly off topic, but have you ever seen the Winter Palace in Russia?

Charlie:
In St Petersburg?

Ben:
Just... You could just Google it. It's one of the biggest... They shoot it in the TV series War and Peace is it?

Charlie:
Is in St Petersburg. So yes, I've gone on a tour but with a an individual professional tour guide. Me and Harry, my YouTube partner, we went around the- I think it's called the Hermitage, isn't it?

Ben:
I don't know, but I just know that it's so wide that they can't fit it into, like, a frame when they're filming it. I remember seeing it on this TV show. I can't remember what show it was. It was a period piece and they couldn't even fit it. I mean, it was just it's so excessively wide.

Charlie:
Yeah, I'm pretty certain that this is the same. The Hermitage. Is that not...?

Ben:
Yeah. I mean, for the sake of... If you are going through England, I mean, there's some big palaces, but I mean, no one does palaces as big as as Russia.

Charlie:
No. Yeah. I mean, I haven't been around the whole of the world, but yeah, I imagine that they pretty much have the top trump to play.

Ben:
Right, now I've got a good country house.

Charlie:
Go on.

Ben:
I love it how they call it a house. I mean, it's not a house, is it?

Charlie:
It's very modest, isn't it?

Ben:
Yeah, very modest for one of the most expensive properties you could ever see. If you guys have ever watched 1995's BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice, the one with Colin Firth, who played Mr. Darcy. He famously lives... Mr. Darcy lives in... Pemberley is the fictionalised estate that he lives in because of course every character in that and the estates are all fictional. They were written by Jane Austen and yeah, so they used a real estate called Lyme Park in Cheshire in England, and it's one of the most magnificent estates I've ever seen. And if you haven't seen Pride and Prejudice, the BBC adapt adaptation, I couldn't recommend it more. It's six episodes, if you like, period pieces. And yeah, this is owned by the National Trust, so you can go inside and visit it and.. Watch Pride and Prejudice first and then you'll want to go and visit it because it'll be a part of Cheshire. Yeah, you want to go and visit it after you watch Pride and Prejudice.

Charlie:
Right, yeah, I can imagine.

Ben:
There's a very famous scene where Colin Firth dives into a the little lake in front of his the property and he comes out in a wet shirt and apparently every, every woman in the world fell in love with Mr. Darcy in that moment.

Charlie:
Ah. I wouldn't imagine Colin Firth to be absolutely ripped. I mean, he's fairly old now.

Ben:
Well, when he was younger, he was, you know, every woman in the world was in love with him.

Charlie:
Every single woman.

Ben:
Any woman with sense, I'd say.

Charlie:
Any woman with a bit of...

Ben:
My mum certainly goes on about him a lot.

Charlie:
Wow. Any dollar Princess would.

Ben:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Charlie:
1300 acres, apparently. That place. Pretty big.

Ben:
That's one to look... I mean, how far is that from London?

Charlie:
Momento...

Ben:
To Cheshire.

Charlie:
Cheshire.

Ben:
Cheshire. Oh, it's near Liverpool.

Charlie:
Liverpool.

Ben:
Yes, it's up near Manchester, actually.

Charlie:
Okay. So if you want to go see the Lake District, stop off Lyme Park.

Ben:
Lyme Park.

Charlie:
Lyme Park. Lyme Park. All right. Cool. And then the last one that I would like to suggest is Chatsworth, Derbyshire. So Chatsworth, it's in Derbyshire. 'Few English estates draw such delight as this one in the heart of the Peak District'. So you could do the peak district. Then you could go see Lyme Park and then go on to the Lake District. 'Chatsworth is known to many as Pemberley in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice'.

Ben:
Yeah. So Pemberley is what the Lyme Park is also Pemberley. But that's in the 1995 adaptation. So these both...

Charlie:
Is this the sec...? No, they're not the same.

Ben:
No, they're not. No. So this one that you're talking about was used as Pemberley, the fictional Pemberley in the 2005 movie. The one I was just talking about, Lyme Park, was used as Pemberley in the 1995 BBC adaptation. [Okay!] So you get two Pemberleys to visit. If you're into Pride and Prejudice...

Charlie:
You've got to go and see both of them. Both of them. Yeah. [Yeah]. So this one was starring Keira Knightley...

Ben:
Mm hmm. I say, this movie is nowhere near as good as the series. In fact, I thought it was a big letdown.

Charlie:
Is that because Colin Firth didn't get his top off?

Ben:
Yeah.

Charlie:
Yeah. Anything else to say other than. Yeah. Yeah.

Ben:
Sorry. No, I had to... It's just not very good. Honestly, it's... They really missed the character beats and the the subtleties of the character, the characters. I mean, Mr. Bennett is supposed to be full of dry wit and humour and sarcasm, and he's played perfectly in the 1995 adaptation, whereas in the 2005 movie, he's nothing like Mr. Bennett. [Right] Not the Mr. Bennett that was written by Jane Austen, anyway.

Charlie:
Okay, well, there we go. Don't watch the 2005 film. And if you have seen it, unsee it!

Ben:
Go unsee it right now.

Charlie:
Yeah, right. Ben, I have kept you far too long. It is. It is 10 minutes past your bedtime, isn't it?

Ben:
Yeah, it's 7:30 p.m..

Charlie:
Your bedtime is 7.20.

Ben:
Exactly 7.20. It's a very... I know it's specific, but, you know, I have my reasons.

Charlie:
We won't delve into those reasons. But I will say thank you so much for being such a good educator and sport on this episode. Thank you very.

Ben:
Much. No worries. Thank you, Charlie. And thank you, everybody. Hopefully I can do one more before Charlie's out of here. Yeah, I'll see if I can think of something good.

Charlie:
Absolutely. If not, we'll get on...

Ben:
The online version.

Charlie:
Online version. And I won't have the hissing problem in the cables.

Ben:
Yes, well, it might on my end, because I don't know what I'm doing, but yeah, it's true.

Charlie:
Okay. All right. Thank you, guys. Well done for listening all the way through this episode. It was a long one and lots of information, but yeah, I hope you enjoyed it. And we will see you next time on the British English podcast. There we go. The end of part three, meaning the end of the episode. Well done for getting through the entirety of it. Make sure you use all of the resources available to you in your membership. Thanks once again for supporting the show and I look forward to seeing you next time on the British English Podcast.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

Character: Mike:
Alright geezer, how's it going?

Character: Chris:
Yes, I'm well thanks. How about you? Have you had a good day?

Character: Mike:
Can't say good mate. No my old man he's been giving me a right old earful for what happened on site last week.

Character: Chris:
Oh that's a pity. Are you back on your dad's building project again?

Character: Mike:
Sad to say mate, but yeah, I am. Couldn't resist this one though. Cash in hand, you know.

Character: Chris:
Oh fair play, hard to resist those I imagine. Oh, here she is.

Character: Emily:
Oh, hi.

Character: Chris:
I was wondering if you're ever going to join us tonight.

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