Stansted Park is an elegant house set in 1,700 acres of park and woodland in the south of England. Built in 1688, it burned down in 1900 and was reconstructed three years later.   It has a beautiful arboretum, perfect for warm afternoon reading or thinking (or both), fine gardens, a maze and tearooms.

But I wanted to share with you the library, utterly conducive to hunkering down on a winter’s day when gales buffet and bluster outside, and you stay safe indoors, reading, chatting, or just snoozing off the ball the night before until tea and toast arrives to perk you up.

Perfectly preserved, it risks being kept as a time capsule rather than a living, breathing reading room. Unlike some of the other rooms, it was roped off and presumably is only entered for dusting and maintenance. Books and libraries need more active use, even if it’s only a snoring lord in the armchair, his Plato splayed open across his belly.   Since the estate lets out other parts of the magnificent house for office rental and events, maybe they could let people rent the library for small-scale writing retreats over tea.

And following the theme of handwriting as social clothing, you might like this guest list and menu from 1899.   The writing is exquisite, at least as elegant as the aristocrats it lists, and the menu is tempting.   Do let me know if you have the recipe for ‘Lamb Epigrams’ or ‘Croute Université’, we’d love to try them.

With warm thanks to the dedicated people who care for Stansted Park and share its history with visitors.

 

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