The English Country Home – Ditchley Park
The English County Homes come in many forms by Ditchely Park is one of the grandest.
The early 20th century was a tumultuous time, Yet, The English Country House sat as a lone beacon of privilege amid a sea of chaos. Many American’s looked to England and especially the English Country Home as their style guide. Heiresses and their parents rushed into marriage to “ buy -titles” that would enhance their social standing even while the peerage was crumbling.
As noted by Julian Fellowes creator of Downton Abby the English country house will always hold “that intriguing blend of great art and architecture mixed in with the romance and tragedy of the people who have lived within their walls.”
One set of these characters was Ronald and Nancy Tree and Lady Sibyl Colefax.
Wealthy Anglo American Ronald and wife Nancy Tree bought Ditchley Park in 1933 and began one of the grandest restorations of the time.
Enter Lady Sibyl Colefax a London society hostess known who was one of the many English gentry who lost a sizable part of her fortune in 1929. In response to her financial disasters she opened a decorating business, that eventually became the Colefax and Fowler.
Colefax developed a glamorous “make-do and mend” decorating style that worked with the often formal aspect of the clients existing rooms and furnishing while creating a relaxed and slightly freighted by design look for these old stately manors. It was if you will, the original shabby chic.
Yet in the restoration of Ditchely, Colefax and the Tress took decorating to a new level even for British society.
Shortly after the restoration the Trees divorced and Nancy subsequently married Colonel Lancaster. Ironically as Nancy Lancaster, she became one of England’s premier interior designers as the new owner of Colefax and Fowler in the 1950’s and 60’s.
As a foot note in history, during the war Ditchley was used by Winston Churchill instead of his home Chartwell or the Prime Ministers retreat of Chequers. because it’s tree coverage with no visible access road provided more safety for the PM.