In the second volume of A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell introduces Stourwater Castle, the fictional country home of the Lord Beaverbrook-esque business magnate and government minister Sir Magnus Donners. Arriving by car on a warm September morning in 1928, Powell’s narrator, Nick Jenkins, muses on the sight before him: “Here was the Middle Age, from the pages of Tennyson, or Scott, at its most elegant: all sordid and painful elements subtly removed.” For Jenkins, the combined effect of the cobbled quadrangle, manicured gardens, and tapestry-lined Great Hall is somehow disconcerting. Donners’s precisely restored pile is too full of genuine antiques to be a Hollywood set, but too perfect to reflect its real history.

Save for its Georgian origins and cliff-top...


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