4 out of 4 stars
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In the 18th century, Raikes Currie built a magnificent manor on the borders of northern Hampshire and Surrey in England. It was called Minley Manor and housed four generations of his family before it became the site of the Gibraltar Barracks. Ian C. Mattison has researched the history of this monumental manor, as well as the members of the Currie family who resided in it. His book, Minley Manor documents his findings. He provides an excellent record of important events which took place at the manor, including its renovations throughout the years. The book also provides valuable information about its rooms, paintings, furniture, and its surrounding gardens.
Although I enjoyed visiting old castles, ruins, and stately homes in my past travels, I have never read a book based solely on one of these places before. This book is one of few in its genre, but I found it to my liking. Ian Mattison has written a factual masterpiece on Minley Manor, and has not only documented the manor’s architectural changes, but also provided an interesting insight into the lives of a few pivotal members of the Currie family such as Raikes Currie, his son Bertram Wodehouse Currie, and his grandson Laurence Wodehouse Currie. I liked that the Curries’ lives were described in the book. Their individual tastes were reflected in the manor’s construction and expansion. For instance, a Persian cat farm was constructed on the premises when Laurence’s son developed a fondness for cats. Laurence himself established a model farm on the Minley estate. A Roman Catholic chapel was also specially built for Bertram’s wife, who was the only Catholic member of the family (until he converted before his death).
I really appreciated the depth at which Mattison researched Minley Manor. Several of the main rooms were intricately described. There were detailed inventories of the things located in each room, such as the furniture, chinaware, and objects like paintings and clocks. I noted that nearly all of the 66 pieces of chinaware in the drawing room were embellished with flowers, leaves, and fruits. Furthermore, the trees on the estate had their own historical significance. The book talked about the various types of trees which were planted. It even supplied a map that showed where each tree grew on the estate, and which ones were destroyed by a storm in 1987. Additionally, I was surprised to learn that one particular oak tree was planted in commemoration of Bertram W. Currie by his friend, the prime minister, William Gladstone. The tree died, but the plaque is still present at the spot.
Pictures were included throughout the book. I enjoyed seeing portraits of the Curries, their coat-of-arms, the sunken garden, and photos of the paintings which adorned the walls of Minley Manor. A colored photo of the manor also depicted the rosy brick facade of the building which was described in the introduction. The pictures served to separate the text and made the book more interesting. Moreover, there was a family tree at the beginning of the book which helped me to keep track of some of the characters. This was a useful addition because many other members of the Currie family were mentioned.
This book seemed professionally edited. A missing full stop and a question mark were the only two errors I stumbled upon, but these were insignificant. This book deserved 4 out of 4 stars because it provided an interesting and detailed account of Minley Manor. It also did the Currie family a great service by including their role in the manor’s construction, expansion, and consequent history. This book will appeal to history lovers and anyone who enjoys reading about places and people.
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