In Memoriam | Mark Girouard (1931–2022)

Posted in obituaries by Editor on September 3, 2022

Yesterday’s posting noted the Colvin Prize Shortlist (as announced this week by The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain), which includes Mark Girouard’s A Biographical Dictionary of English Architecture, 1540–1640. I should have included notice of Girouard’s very recent passing. The following paragraphs come from the opening of Girouard’s obituary in The Guardian.

Otto Saumarez Smith, “Mark Girouard Obituary,” The Guardian (26 August 2022).

Architectural historian who wrote extensively on stately homes and campaigned to save the Georgian houses of Spitalfields

Mark Girouard, who has died aged 90, was Britain’s most readable architectural historian, a great authority on Elizabethan and Victorian architecture whose extensive writings used the study of buildings to illuminate the social life of the past. The publication of Life in the English Country House: A Social and Architectural History in 1978 captured the zeitgeist in a period when stately homes were being repurposed as sites of mass leisure. It sold more than 140,000 copies in hardback.

When Girouard started his career the study of architectural history in Britain was dominated by the German-trained Nikolaus Pevsner, for whom the discipline was essentially about tracking artistic styles through intense formal and spatial analysis. In contrast, Girouard’s books placed buildings within their cultural, social and intellectual milieu. The results were scholarly, but also immensely fun, gossipy and stylish.

Although he wrote a great deal about country houses, he found much of the fogeyish snobbery and nostalgia that often goes with the territory distasteful. Free of pomposity, puckish, self-effacing and urbane, he was much loved by all sorts of people for his kindness and sense of fun. Girouard took on a terrific range of subjects beyond country houses, writing with verve about Victorian Pubs (1975) and urban history in Cities and People: A Social and Architectural History (1985) and The English Town: A History of Urban Life (1990). . . .

The full obituary is available here»

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