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Long Galleries

A look into the long galleries of the stately homes

Long galleries were brought to us in the Elizabethan era, inspired by medieval cloisters, the first said to be at The Vyne in the 16th century.

This was an entirely unique architecture feature, never before seen. British architecture did not include corridors/hallways, rather each room connected to the other, so if one wished to enter the dining room, for example, this would mean walking through the parlour into the drawing room, and then into the dining room, not via a hallway or corridor. Having a long gallery, then, was a novel concept. It’s curious this fashion did not gain popularity once introduced, however.

During the Elizabethan and Jacobean era, this was the most popular corridor in the house, but it lost favour to the drawing room by the Georgian era. The placement is typically along the side of the house, end to end, with windows along one side. The long gallery served a multitude of purposes, including showcasing family portraits and art collections, exercising and promenading during rainy weather, dancing, hosting games such as bowls during foul weather, entertaining guests, and even archery (yikes!).

In some stately homes, the gallery was for royal use only, connecting with the state apartments and private gardens.

As to if our heroes and heroines would have a long gallery in their home, that depended a good deal on when the house was built. Those built from Elizabethan through the Jacobean era, more likely than not would have had one, but as we reach the Georgian era, unless the architect or owner had an affinity for long galleries, this feature would not have been a “must have.”

Enjoy this article from Art and The Country House: The Architectural Evolution of Picture and Sculpture Galleries in British Country Houses

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