MA in the English Country House 1485-1945

Entry requirements: First or second class honours degree or relevant experience Full or Part-time: Full-time, Part-time
School: School of Humanities Search all courses
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Course outline

Castle HowardThis course is to be an interdisciplinary programme enabling students to examine, by way of a thesis, aspects of the history of the English country house between 1485 and 1945. Students will be encouraged to consider the interrelation of architectural history, art history and social history in the evolution of the country house as a political powerhouse, a setting for the display of art and craftsmanship, a self-contained community and a symbol of continuity and loss in a changing world.

The seminar programme, which serves to complement the student’s individual research, will explore these themes in a series of ten meetings which will be addressed by some of the United Kingdom’s most distinguished country house historians. These will be prefaced by an introduction to research techniques, with particular reference to the use of primary sources such as inventories, estate records and collections of private papers; an introduction to relevant library resources available in London and through the University of Buckingham’s online subscriptions; and an introduction to the most recent academic approaches to the subject.

Kedleston Hall

Each seminar will take place in the early evening, followed by a 40-minute question-and-answer session with the seminar speaker, and a dinner at which there will be further questioning of the speaker and a general conversation about the topic in hand. Four seminars will be scheduled for the period between October and December, and a further six in the period between the New Year and March.


The programme begins with an overview of the architectural and social history of the country house and an examination of recent academic perspectives on the subject, including the latest thematic and period-based approaches and studies of particular mansions and individual architects from Robert Smythson to Sir Edwin Lutyens. It goes on to discuss the changing function of the country house between 1485 and 1945, and to explore how architectural form has been modified by social change.

Country house in Thakeham designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens

A series of seminar papers will then explore architectural style; the mechanics of building, owning and living in a country house; and the wider cultural context, which has seen the country house playing a crucial role in the invention of the past, from Ben Jonson’s ‘To Penshurst’ to Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

2018-19 seminar programme

The provisional seminar schedule for 2018-19 can be found below.
Location for seminars: The Reform Club (104 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5EW), and the University of Buckingham’s London premises at 51 Gower Street (Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 6HJ).
Click here for map and directions to the Reform Club:

2 October 2018 (51 Gower Street): Adrian Tinniswood, introductory session (no dinner)
16 October 2018 (Reform Club): Nicholas Kingsley, Researching The Country House
30 October 2018 (Reform Club): John Goodall, Under a spell: Gothic and the Country House 1500-1700
13 November 2018 (Reform Club): Simon Thurley, The Palace of Whitehall
27 November 2018 (51 Gower Street): Lisa White, Lighting and the Country House
8 January 2019 (Reform Club): Patrick Baty, Colour and the Country House
22 January 2019 (Reform Club): Sophie Andrae, Palladianism, Robert Taylor and Barlaston Hall
06 February 2019 (51 Gower Street): Jeremy Musson, Robert Adam
19 February 2019 (Reform Club): Rosemary Hill, The Earl and the Architect: Pugin and Lord Shrewsbury
5 March 2019 (Reform Club): Simon Murray, The National Trust and the Country House
19 March (51 Gower Street): Adrian Tinniswood, Alive and Well: Life in the Country House in the 1950s and 1960s

Each guest speaker seminar begins at 18:30 and is followed by a dinner at 20:00 with the guest speaker. The cost of all post-seminar dinners is included in the tuition fees.

What Our Students Say

Matthew Beckett: ‘Having informally pursued knowledge in the subject, the MA in The English Country House: 1485-1945 offered the opportunity to provide a strong academic framework through high-quality seminars led by some of the foremost experts in their fields. In addition, the dissertation gave ample opportunity to explore a specific aspect of the subject within a supportive environment.

Perhaps, most critically for me, the course is deliberately structured to enable those unable to undertake a full-time course to still enjoy the benefits of MA study, with evening seminars and online and phone support. The students on the course come from varied backgrounds and span a wide range of ages and experiences but also, importantly, different interests in the country house, each bringing their own expertise and passion to enrich the seminars.

This course has provided not only intellectually satisfying teaching and discussion but also a chance to interact with recognised leaders in country house research, meet fellow enthusiasts, and profoundly develop my skills and knowledge as part of producing the dissertation.’

Patrick Newberry: ‘I was drawn to Buckingham by its great reputation both for scholarship and for innovation in its development of programmes. Since starting the Country House MA, I have found that my expectations were more than justified; indeed, they have been far exceeded. The design of the seminar programme is excellent. Prior to starting the course, I was reasonably well read in the subject matter, but the seminars have stretched my understanding and thinking to new levels. Led by some of the UK’s foremost architectural historians, including the Course Director, they have been outstanding. The range of knowledge and expertise delivered in the seminars, combined with interaction with a very talented and experienced group of fellow students at, and outside of, the seminars have been an incredible experience, leading me into significant new areas of thought and research, as well as providing a delightful social experience.

Having one of the country’s leading Country House historians as course leader has also been a tremendous benefit. Being able to work with somebody who has a deep and broad knowledge of the subject matter as well as being a published writer of high repute is an incredible advantage when working up plans for dissertations and embarking on a research programme. The Course Director’s practical counsel and advice and constant availability in the role of dissertation supervisor have provided a great combination of challenge and support in undertaking the significant challenge of a Master’s dissertation.

The quality of the programme has been so good that a number of us are exploring upgrading to a DPhil with the university, so as to be able to maximise the opportunity to pursue our chosen areas of research.’

The Course Director

Adrian Tinniswood, OBE, MPhil, Senior Research Fellow of the Humanities Research Institute, Buckingham, and Visiting Fellow in History and Heritage, Bath Spa

Adrian TinniswoodAdrian Tinniswood has a distinguished reputation as an architectural and social historian on both sides of the Atlantic. He has worked for many years as a consultant and adviser to the National Trust and has lectured extensively on the country house and on the architecture and social history of the seventeenth century at British universities including Oxford, Bristol and Nottingham and for the University of California at Berkeley.

His books include His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren, The Verneys (short-listed for the 2007 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction) and The Polite Tourist: Four Centuries of Country House Visiting.

His latest book, The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars, was published by Jonathan Cape in June 2016.

He was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to heritage.

Associate students

For those wishing to attend the evening research seminar programme, but unable to devote the time to the coursework or to register for the MA degree, there is the option of becoming an Associate Student.  This status will enable the student to attend the ten research seminars and to meet the guest lecturers, in the first six months of the programme, but does not require the submission of written work. Associate Students are not registered for and do not receive, the MA degree.

Full details in the Curriculum Handbook

For further details contact:
Humanities Research Admissions on +44 (0)1280 827514


Entry Requirements

Entry requirements

The minimum entry level required for this course is as follows:

  • a first or upper second-class honours degree from a recognised university or,
  • a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience.

In cases where candidates are applying on the basis of work experience, they may be asked to complete a short written assignment and/or attend an interview as part of the applications process.

Mature students

Age is no barrier to learning and we welcome all applications from suitably qualified students. Due to their flexibility, our London-based MAs by research attract a wide variety of applicants from a range of backgrounds, including people in full-time employment and retirees. Our current students range in age from 21 to 75.

International students

We are happy to consider all international applications and if you are an international student, you may find it useful to visit our international pages for details of entry requirements from your home country.

The University is a UKVI Tier 4 Sponsor.

English levels

If English is not your first language, please check our postgraduate English language requirements. If your English levels don’t meet our minimum requirements, you may be interested in applying for our Pre-sessional English Language Foundation Programmes.

Selection process

Candidates apply online, sending in their supporting documents, and will be assessed on this basis by the Programme Director.  The Programme Director or Admissions Assistant will be happy to answer any enquiries.

Admissions and Marketing Officer, London Programmes

Terms and conditions for prospective students

When you are offered a place at the University you will be notified of the terms and conditions between the University and students on our courses of study. When you accept an offer of a place on the course at the University a legal contract is formed between you and the University on the basis of the terms and conditions outlined in your offer letter. Your offer letter and the terms and conditions contain important information which you should read carefully before accepting any offer. Read the admissions terms and conditions > >


Teaching & Assessment

The MA does not offer systematic instruction in the facts; instead, the emphasis is on independent thought and research.

At the heart of the Buckingham MA is the close working relationship between student and supervisor. While the final thesis must be an independent work, it is the supervisor who offers advice on refining the topic (if necessary), on primary sources, on secondary reading, on research techniques and on writing the final text (which should be not less than 25,000 words). Supervisors and students will meet frequently throughout the year, and not less than twice a term; and the supervisor shall always be the student’s primary contact for academic advice and support.


After Your Degree

The University’s Course Directors, students’ supervisors, and the Research Officer and Tutor for Graduate Students are available to discuss students’ post-graduation plans and how they may utilise most effectively the skills acquired during their studies.


Fees & Scholarships

Please note that the University of Buckingham has four terms per year. The tuition fees quoted are for the degree (e.g. if you start a degree at Buckingham in January 2018, you will pay the same termly fee for the duration of your degree – you will not be affected by the price increase in September 2018). Students will pay the same termly fee for the duration of their studies, unless studies are interrupted and resumed later. The tuition fee quoted is therefore the total cost of the degree.

Postgraduate loan scheme

A new system of postgraduate loans for Masters degrees in the UK was introduced in August 2016 with support from the UK Government. The loan will provide up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. The loans can be used for tuition fees, living expenses or both.  Find out more >>


Details of other scholarships can be found on our main Bursaries and Scholarships page. You should make an application to study at the University and receive an offer letter confirming our acceptance of your application before applying for a scholarship.

You may also find it useful to visit our External Funding page.


Fees may increase annually in line with inflation. For details, please see our Fees and Finance page.


Due to the mode of study on this course you will not normally need a room in University accommodation during your degree.

However, if you require short-term accommodation in Buckingham we would be happy to provide a list of local bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation. Alternatively, please contact our Accommodation Office for advice.