Stately Treasures at the Tate

Richard Cavendish highlights a new exhibition at the Tate which celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Historic Houses Association.

The Historic Houses Association, which represents the interests of the private owners of more than 300 houses regularly open to the public, and another 200 that open occasionally, is a quarter of a century old this year. The Tate Gallery is marking the occasion with a special exhibition. These houses, their contents and their owners have played a key part in British life: many of the nation's best-loved works of art are not on view to the public in the formality of art galleries, but in the more engaging atmosphere of stately homes where they have been collected and cherished by a family and its descendants down the generations.

The Association was founded in 1973, with Lord Montagu of Beaulieu as its first president. Its members occupy properties ranging from enormous palaces like Blenheim and Castle Howard, which weigh down the groaning earth with splendour through delightful Elizabethan and Jacobean country homes and elegant Georgian mansions with their graceful, deer-grazed parts, to opulent Victorian and Edwardian extravagances. They are houses which have the personal and intimate appeal of still being lived in.

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