Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Country Living Ideal

Ideals for the English were different than that of the people of different countries in Europe. The country home was very important to a family and they spent most of their time at that location. This was a private home surrounded by nature which was found outside the busy, chaotic city. The city was a place where members of the family would go only for the purpose of doing work and would immediately return; or if required, spend a few days in their town home. People did not want to be "imprisoned in a giant multi-storeyed barrack-like blocks" which would be found in the inner city - London in this case.

"In England one does not 'live' in the city, one merely stays there. England differs from all the other countries in the world in that even the royal residence is not in the capital, but far away in the country and the town palace is now used only for overnight stays." (Muthesius, 7)

From this, we can start to understand the reason for the location of the Red House. Bexleyheath, which is south-east of London, used to be a shrub land with very buildings up until the 19th century. During this time, this area was outside the inner city with much more nature than built environment. This was a great site for a country home that's close enough to the city for business purposes, but far enough to have the relaxed country setting in which to enjoy with the family.

Bexleyheath in relation to London - Google Maps

The climate in England provides for very suitable conditions for nature. 

"The extreme moisture of the atmosphere combined with a temperature made mild by the Gulf Stream and even by that fact that the country is an island has produced a luxuriant plant-life unrivalled by any continental country. The damp atmosphere preserves the green in all its lushness until late autumn and prevents dust settling and leaves withering prematurely as they do by high summer on the continent. This is why every English hedgerow, every patch of garden fronting a labourer's cottage looks so uncommonly fresh and clean." (Muthesius, 8)

This contributes to the ideal of living in the country with nature surrounding you and your family. Man and his home was meant to exist within nature. 

"[Country houses] lie fresh and trim amid the natural greenery. And together with this garden-like landscape they reflect the wellbeing of the country, the comfortable lifestyle of a people that has remained close to nature, for whom a fresh breath of country air blowing across the fields is worth more than the refinements of an artificial city life." (Muthesius, 8)

We can now also see how the artificial city life has overtaken the country in the 21st century. As of two centuries ago, Bexleyheath has been completely transformed into a suburb, losing all aspects of country living. The only nature left now is what has been preserved on the property of the Red House. It sticks out like a sore thumb, while it terminates two streets heading in its direction.

The Red House property in relation to the surrounding suburb today - Google Maps

Muthesius, Hermann. "Part I: Development." In The English House. London: Crosby Lockwood Staples, 1979. 7 - 11.

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