About the project
This project is a complete reproduction and restoration of A Series of Picturesque Views of Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland.
From 1864 to 1880, author F.O. Morris partnered with illustrator Alexander Lydon and printer Benjamin Fawcett to compile a six-volume collection of 240 illustrations of country mansions in idyllic surrounding landscapes accompanied by descriptions of their architecture, artworks adorning the interior, owners’ lineage, and geography.
The detail with which the images were produced is astounding. Lydon—a British artist also known for his work illustrating British flora and fauna—superbly captured the fine details of each location. Images were drawn and printed using multiple engraved wooden blocks per image that required precise alignment. On average, 8 per image were used totalling around 2,000 by completion. Interestingly, the engraving was not done by Lydon himself but he directed the process during publication.
As with most now well-known works, the original publication was slow to gain in popularity. Illustrations were released in quartos (one or more full sheets of paper on which eight pages of text were printed) and eventually released as volumes once enough were printed. Due to early challenges, the method of release was changed to only being isssued to subscribers which included Queen Victoria, several members of royalty, and many other nobelmen. A full list of these subscribers was included in a seventh volume. This proved to be a successful decision which resulted in more than 10,000 copies being produced.
Morris’ work contains 240 illustrations (241 counting the one on the title page of the volume with names of subscribers) but the collection is by no means a complete comprehensive list of every castle, mansion, or other seat across Great Britain and Ireland. In a memoir about Morris written by his son, Morris is quoted as describing the challenge in choosing which to include:
“In describing the mansions of Old England, the difficulty that first occurs is to decide with which to begin where so many claim foremost attention. Here is one to which I could point where the same family has dwelt, generation after generation, for six hundred years; and there another whose quaint Gothic architecture demands and receives our ad miration. This is approached by a stately avenue of ancient elms, the Cunabula gentis of the cawing rooks, so well in keeping with all around, that exhibits in front a dazzling labyrinth of the most gorgeous coloured flowers. Here is one the novelty of whose structure arrests the eye, and there an other the remarkable seclusion of whose situation at once engages our interest. Again we see one the vastness of whose size asserts for itself a hold on our notice on that account; and yet again another, the present desolation of which, and decay of its former grandeur, asks a place in our sympathy for its owners in their fallen fortunes, and regret for its own mouldering state.
“In a word, these are the mansions of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales ; and such many of them have stood time out of mind the Castle, the Moat, the Court, the Hall, the Grange, the House, the Priory, the Manor, the Park, the Abbey, the Place, the Cote, the Cottage the ivy-mantled walls of some, and the grey towers and l turrets high of others, each and all suited to their various situations, and each and all characteristic of the favoured country in which we have such deep cause for thankfulness that our lot has been cast.”
Fortunately, the dedication and effort Morris, Lydon, and Fawcett put into their project has lived on to be well preserved over a century later in many collections, including scans on the Internet Archive (vols 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, subscribers). These books were the material used for the images and text in this project.
A journey across Great Britain and Ireland
This reproduction was created in an effort to breathe new life into an aging classic and make it more widely available. The original books are still available from many sellers but many are missing a couple volumes and while they’ve been excellently preserved over the past 100+ years, the illustrations have weathered with time. By restoring them and reproducing them here, the hope is that others will enjoy taking a journey across Great Britain and Ireland to explore beautiful architecture.
Many of the buildings mentioned still stand today. Each illustration is accompanied by an interactive map showing its location, rough approximation of the vantage point from where it was drawn, and links to explore satellite and some street-level views. Links are also available to read more about the history of each seat.
How it was made Browse all illustrations
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Illustrations have been compiled into unique displays of similarity, sets, maps, and more.