Country houses are symbols of national identity, evoking the glamorous world of the landowning aristocracy. “Jewish” country houses tell a more complex story – of prejudice and integration, difference and belonging.
Our new exhibition Country Houses, Jewish Homes explores how Jews arrived in Britain, and fought for the right to acquire land and the political rights and social status that came with it. This was a society still structured by Christianity and dominated by the landed aristocracy. What did owning an English country house mean for immigrant Jewish families like the Rothschilds or the Sassoons? Was it easy to lead a Jewish life in the countryside? And what did those Jews who bought country houses both grand and small bring to the places they came to call home?
From the early struggles for religious equality in Georgian Britain to the rise of modern political antisemitism and the tragedy of the Holocaust, this exhibition illuminates what it means to be British, and the changing place of both Jews and the country house in British life.
The exhibition 'Country Houses, Jewish Homes' will be launched at Limmud Festival in Birmingham in December 2022, where it will be introduced with a special talk by curators Abigail Green and Marcus Roberts, together with Dr Jaclyn Granick, on December 26th 2022.
The exhibition will also be on view at Gunnersbury Park from 21 January - 25 June 2023: more information at Country Houses, Jewish Homes | Gunnersbury (visitgunnersbury.org).
There will be opportunities to see the exhibition (in full or in part) throughout 2023 at venues including Hughenden Manor, Upton House, Crawley Museum, and the Thanet and District Reform Synagogue. In 2024 the exhibition will be on display at Strawberry Hill House, and at Waddesdon Manor in 2025. Further information and dates for all venues will be added shortly.