Letter: Stately homes belong firmly to the past

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The Independent Online
Sir: I fear that for Mr Gummer, the countryside has become no more than a view from the motorway ("Gummer's vision for our rural future: more stately homes for the rich", 20 February). Building a latter-day equivalent of a Gothic pile is no more than making a composition within the frame of the car window.

If he wishes there to be an attractive countryside in the future, he should concentrate on saving it from ever more roads, airports and "green field" industrial developments.

He should also be aware that new grand houses would be very different in their effect from the manor-houses of the past. The latter formed part of a now-vanished social and communal order. The local squire was the person who employed most of the locals, or leased them their farms. He, or she, was expected to act as the leader in local affairs, including taking on onerous and expensive duties. Much of this, of course, was for the benefit of fellow members of the squirearchy, but it included patronage of the local school, provision of village halls, and holding fetes in the house grounds.

This is the good side of the old order, but it has gone, along with its many ills. A new generation of country houses is likely to be occupied by security-obsessed fat cats. Their owners are far more likely to start badgering the local authority to close public footpaths "for security reasons" than they are to lay out parkland and throw it open for public enjoyment.

CHRISTOPHER PADLEY

Market Rasen, Lincolnshire

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