The origins of the English country house are in the 11th century when Norman nobles built manor houses on land given to them by William the Conqueror. Estates expanded rapidly in the following centuries as nobles tried to improve their social status by buying land or receiving property seized from the church.
However, most surviving country houses were built or remodelled in the 17th century. In this period of stability, land owners constructed stylish mansions that would reflect their wealth and power. This was often at the cost of local tenants. In order to create gardens from farm land, houses or whole villages were demolished.
In the 18th century, the industrial revolution shifted power to cities and country houses began to decline. Financial pressures led many owners to sell or leave their estates. Others turned to tourism. Today, many country houses are open to the public.
In Northamptonshire, two are now National Trust properties (Canons Ashby and Lyveden New Bield). Another three are managed by English Heritage (Apethorpe Palace, Kirby Hall, and Rushton Triangular Lodge). Many others are still privately owned but can be visited. Nine are members of the
Historic House Association.