County House Interpretation

Matthew Rowland

Interpretation of Country Houses in Wales

Matthew’s research seeks to investigate, understand and inform the interpretation of country houses in Wales. Its aim is to assess the position of country houses within modern-day Welsh heritage and tourism strategies, and in relation to Welsh culture and identity, thus assessing their significance in modern society.

Country houses in Wales exist in a variety of forms, including family homes, fulltime heritage attractions, commercial enterprises such as restaurants, hotels and wedding venues, and ruins – often incorporating an admixture of uses. The research focuses on heritage interpretation across this spectrum – how are these places presented and marketed, and what aspects of their history are highlighted to visitors and public audiences. It seeks to identify key themes and challenges, success stories and deficiencies, and to provide guidance on future opportunities and best practice. This is being advanced through a combination of site visits, interviews with owners, curators and visitors, assessments of online interpretation and questionnaires to gauge public opinion.

This research is significant because much of the academic and heritage literature regarding country houses in the UK is presented from an English perspective, despite the distinctive contributions these places made towards the shaping Wales as we know it through the social, political, economic and cultural influences of their owners. Owing to the number of country houses physically lost to Wales during the course of the 20th century, the number of ruined country houses or properties currently ‘at risk’, and the relatively low number of properties operating as full-time heritage attractions in Wales, there is possibly a lack of awareness of their historical importance and cultural heritage significance. This project explores what the future holds for the country house across the spheres of heritage and tourism. It contends that they are a significant feature in the cultural heritage of Wales, capable of acting as hubs for communicating important narratives about local, Welsh, British and global histories.

Matthew’s research is supported by two scholarships from Y Werin Legacy Fund.