The English countryside is as studded with gems as a royal tiara. It would be a lifetime’s work to see all the castles, manor houses, religious houses, garden follies, historical buildings, and the rest—and that’s before one adds gardens, archaeological sites, and actual natural beauties onto the list.
Now, I appreciate the big names on offer: the Blenheims, Chatsworths, and Longleats are completely stunning, and leave a person with neckache from gaping at the assembled wonders of several generations of obscenely wealthy family. However, my tastes in architectural gems run to the more idiosyncratic and complex. Owlpen Manor, Broughton Castle (which is not really a castle, since only the wall is castellated), Calke Abbey (similarly misnamed)—those are the places that tempt me into wandering for hours, poking into the odd corners, wondering over the revealed layers of the building’s history, encouraging my imagination to stir…
Today I spent many hours at one that goes near the top of my list of favorites: Michelham Priory. Medieval foundations, Tudor walls, a moat and mill,