The English country house is a large house or mansion in the English countryside. Such houses were often owned by individuals who also owned a London house. This allowed them to spend time in the country and in the city—hence, for these people, the term distinguished between town and country. However, the term also encompasses houses that were, and often still are, the full-time residence for the landed gentry. These people were central to the squirearchy that ruled rural Britain until the Reform Act 1832. Frequently, the formal business of the counties was transacted in these country houses.
With large numbers of indoor and outdoor staff, country houses were important as places of employment for many rural communities. In turn, until the agricultural depressions of 1870s, the estates, of which country houses were the hub, provided their owners with incomes. However, the late 19th and early 20th centuries were the swan song of the traditional English country house lifestyle. Increased taxation and the results of World War I led to the demolition of hundreds of houses; those that remained had to adapt to survive.
The gardens, which are a celebrated example of the Picturesque style, are open to the public. The central feature is the ruins of a medieval, moated manor house, Scotney Old Castle, which is on an island on a small lake. The lake is surrounded by sloping, wooded gardens with fine collections of rhododendrons, azaleas and kalmia for spring colour, summer wisteria and roses, and spectacular autumn colour.
At the top of the garden stands a house which was built to replace the Old Castle between 1835 and 1843. This is known as Scotney New Castle, or simply Scotney Castle, and was designed by Anthony Salvin. It is an early, and unusually restrained, example of Tudor Revival architectural style in 19th century Britain. Following the death of the resident, Elizabeth Hussey, in 2006, this house was opened to the public for the first time on June 6, 2007.