‘In Search of the Perfect House’ by Marcus Binney was something I saw and delved into on the bookshelf of a superb pub we visited recently – ‘The Waddington Arms’ in the middle of the beautiful Lancashire Village of Waddington. When we got home I just had to have it. Problem….only available second-hand and I just hate second-hand books. I don’t like their smell, and I don’t like the thought of who may have handled them. And there were no ‘as new’ copies. Never mind, needs must. I need not have worried, an almost perfect copy arrived through the post. Phew. Since then I haven’t been able to stop reading the entries.
Marcus Binney has spent 40 years looking for beautiful and little known country houses to write about in Country Life and The Times. Most books on country houses are based on properties regularly open to the public but this book is different, it is full of dream houses which have remained quietly in family ownership for centuries and which only surface to public gaze when they come on the market. Simon Jenkins of course has his ‘England’s Thousand Best Houses’ (also amazing), but whereas the Jenkins book is confined to houses open to the public, in fact the great majority of Binney’s selection are indeed privately owned. of the houses are derelict when he first comes across them, furniture stripped, water pouring in, vandalised. But it is incredible how many have been nurtured back to life even though there might be just a shell remaining because of the dedicated effort of individuals who make it their life’s work in many cases. Not all good news. I check each entry for up-to-date news and some have proved irrecoverable. Nevertheless the message is on the whole a very optimistic one…..our history preserved. The full colour photographs add immeasurably to the feel of a special book.