Rural Residences, published in 1818, contains a collection of designs for countryside houses and grounds by the prolific architect and artist, John Buonarotti Papworth. The buildings range from vicarages and modest cottages for estate workers, to elaborate ice houses for noblemen. Many of the proposed designs far exceed their practical purpose and are highly ornamental. They embody what we now recognise as a ‘classic’ Regency England style.
Each design is accompanied by hand-coloured aquatint illustrations and floor plan layouts, together with an explanation of the theory, aesthetic, and purpose of the structure.
John Buonarotti Papworth's career
Impressively, Papworth maintained a successful and important business across four decades. Working between the 1800s and 1840s, his designs provide a record of the contrasts and changes in Georgian and Victorian tastes and fashions. His seemingly inexhaustible output covers country house architecture, furniture design, town planning and magazine cover design.
The designs for Rural Residences originally appeared under the title ‘Architectural Hints’ in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, a popular and widely read magazine, during 1816 and 1817. In part, Papworth was motivated to publish his designs to encourage the gentleman landowner to pursue aesthetic, and moral, improvements to his estate.
Houses in Jane Austen's novels
Although Jane Austen is not particularly concerned with the architectural details of the houses occupied by her characters, she is engaged with Papworth’s concern over the social and financial ‘fit’ between occupants and dwelling. In the variety of Austen’s domestic buildings – court, grange, park, hall, house, cottage – their suitability to the family, their income, and occupation, is explored. In Persuasion, for instance, Anne Elliot’s father insists on living in houses that require maintenance beyond his financial means. This highlights Sir Walter’s foolish, irresponsible character.