The House Party: A Short History of Leisure, Pleasure and the Country House Weekend by Adrain Tinniswood (Review)

The House Party: A Short History of Leisure, Pleasure and the Country House Weekend by Adrain Tinniswood


A delightful journey through the glamorous story of the English country house party by the bestselling historian.

Croquet. Parlour games. Cocktails. Welcome to a glorious journey through the golden age of the country house party – and you are invited. 

Our host, celebrated historian Adrian Tinniswood, traces the evolution of this quintessentially British pastime from debauched royal tours to the flamboyant excess of the Bright Young Things. With cameos by the Jazz Age industrialist, the bibulous earl and the off-duty politician – whether in moated manor houses or ornate Palladian villas – Tinniswood gives a vivid insight into weekending etiquette and reveals the hidden lives of celebrity guests, from Nancy Astor to Winston Churchill, in all their drinking, feasting, gambling and fornicating. 

The result is a deliciously entertaining, star-studded, yet surprisingly moving portrait of a time when social conventions were being radically overhauled through the escapism of a generation haunted by war – and a uniquely fast-living period of English history. 


We bought this book when we visited Croome last month and it has been tempting me to read it ever since. I could have easily read this book in one sitting as I found it so interesting but I made it last two days instead.

The book begins at the beginning of house parties starting from when Queen Elizabeth I used to visit and stay at people’s houses when she was travelling through the country to when eventually the traditional house party died out. 

This book is filled full of glamour, wealth, luxury and everything you can imagine that happened in fine country houses during house parties. 

I loved how the book described every detail of the house party from the invitations to what food and drink would have been served and the activities people would have partaken. The stories told in this book about different house guests and their hosts were hilarious. I particularly liked the house guests who brought their own thermos flask with cocktails in to have in their room because they knew their particular hosts didn’t hold cocktails before dinner. 

There were a lot of little stories in this book and a lot of famous names mentioned. However, for such a short book I think too many stories were mentioned and maybe just a few famous houses should have been focused on. To be honest I would have loved a much longer book as I could have happily read another 200 pages about the famous houses and their parties. I give this book 4 out of 5 Dragons and I will definitely be reading more of Tinniswood’s work.


Purchase Links

Foyles | Waterstones | Wordery

About the author

Adrian Tinniswood has worked as an author, broadcaster, lecturer and educational consultant for nearly 30 years in both Britain and the United States. Tinniswood studied English and Philosophy at Southampton University and was awarded an MPhil at Leicester University.

If you enjoy reading my blog and would like to make a donation I would be very grateful. Thank you


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