Tinniswood, Adrian 1954-
Tinniswood, Adrian 1954-
Born in Derby, England, in 1954. Education: University of Southampton, undergraduate degree; University of Leicester, M.Phil.
Home—Outside Bath, England. Agent—Knight Ayton Management, 114 St. Martin's Lane, London WC2N 4BE, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, lecturer, and broadcaster. The National Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund, England, architectural historian. Has lectured at Bristol University, Oxford University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and University of California-Berkeley.
A History of Country House Visiting: Five Centuries of Tourism and Taste, Basil Blackwell/National Trust (London, England), 1989.
Cross Currents: A Coastal Studies Handbook for Teachers, illustrations by Carol Liddle and Liz Price, National Trust (London, England), 1990.
The National Trust: Historic Houses of Britain, Abrams (New York, NY), 1992.
Country Houses from the Air, photographs by Jason Hawkes, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1994.
Life in the English Country Cottage, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1995.
Visions of Power: Ambition and Architecture from Ancient Times to the Present, Stewart, Tabori & Chang (New York, NY), 1998.
The Arts and Crafts House, Watson-Guptill Publications (New York, NY), 1999.
The Polite Tourist: Four Centuries of Country House Visiting, Abrams (New York, NY), 1999.
His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2001.
The Art Deco House: Avant-Garde Houses of the 1920s and 1930s, Watson-Guptill Publications (New York, NY), 2002.
By Permission of Heaven: The True Story of the Great Fire of London, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England, Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Architectural historian Adrian Tinniswood has written several books on England's country houses, architecture, and the history of life in the English countryside. He has written most of his books for the National Trust, a British organization dedicated to historical preservation.
Tinniswood's His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren is a biography of the seventeenth-century architect and scientist. A reviewer for the Economist called the book "a highly readable and engaging biography of a fascinating, enigmatic figure." Tinniswood not only discusses Wren's architecture, but also portrays Wren's social and political world. He also uses the architect's correspondence to illuminate Wren's private life.
In A History of Country House Visiting: Five Centuries of Tourism and Taste, Tinniswood begins with Sir Gawain finding a magical castle in the fourteenth century, and escorts the reader through the next five centuries, up to the Marquis of Bath, who acquired some lions to attract visitors to his house. Eileen Harris, writing for Apollo, stated that the book "does not tell you where to go and when, but rather who has been there before you, what they came to see, how they were received and much else about the history of looking at other people's houses."
Cross Currents: A Coastal Studies Handbook for Teachers is a handbook designed to help secondary school teachers introduce their students to coastal studies. The book contains separate sections for teachers and students, touching on aspects of the national curriculum attainment targets in geography, history, science, English, and mathematics. Patrick Bailey, in the Times Educational Supplement, praised its timeliness and hoped it would help publicize environmental matters.
In The National Trust: Historic Houses of Britain, Tinniswood intertwines the history of thirty famous country homes that now belong to the National Trust with tales of their architects and owners. Stephen Allan Patrick wrote in the Library Journal that "this volume of architectural treasures would make a welcome addition to any collection."
Tinniswood teamed with photographer Jason Hawkes to produce Country Houses from the Air, a collection of aerial photographs. A Chicago Tribune Books reviewer found that "there is something about these British mansions and estates, dating from centuries ago, that comes alive when the edifices are seen from above in all their power and lavish beauty," and praised the interplay between the modern color photos and black-and-white historical drawings.
The English have long idealized life in the countryside, but the reality of that existence was far from rosy. Tinniswood examines the subject objectively in Life in the English Country Cottage. Until the end of the eighteenth century, the word "cottage" referred to the smallest, most inadequate of dwellings, and its inhabitants were generally of the lowest socio-economic class. Cottagers had minuscule plots of land, a minimal standard of living, and little opportunity to improve their lot. As enclosure progressed in the 1700s, many cottagers lost their land and their access to the commons, which they had used for pasture; they had to move to cities, where they depended on wages to buy food they had once grown themselves. Victorians then seized upon the remaining tumbledown cottages as irresistibly romantic, and cottages and their bedraggled inhabitants became a fashionable subject for painters.
Tinniswood's next work, The Polite Tourist: Four Centuries of Country House Visiting, surveys four hundred years of English houses and their visitors. For hundreds of years, English people of the "polite" classes opened their homes to one another, offering hospitality to guests even when it was inconvenient. Some country houses were constructed expressly for visitors; during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, courtiers rushed to build manor houses in the hopes of impressing their monarch. Later, wealthy people built houses more for their own pleasure, as country-house mania took eighteenth-century England by storm. The more elaborate houses attracted visitors who came just for the architectural wonders; many domestic servants made a tidy income on the side by showing these tourists around. Eventually, this tourism allowed the country houses to remain standing when families could no longer maintain them. Angeline Goreau, writing in the New York Times called the book "an entertaining and scholarly account of the shifting ground that the country house and its ever-increasing throng of admirers have occupied."
A major catastrophe of the late seventeenth-century was the subject of By Permission of Heaven: The True Story of the Great Fire of London. In 1666 a massive fire destroyed much of the city of London and set off a maelstrom of speculation as to the fire's original source. What was considered by many critics to be Tinniswood's strength is his ability to depict the reality of London life before and during the fire, and in the vast reconstruction that followed. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews found that the book "wonderfully captures the mood of the times." A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked: "Tinniswood's greatest achievement is his ability to re-create the wave of paranoia that engulfed London." In a review for Booklist, Gavin Quinn commented that the "factual account as well as the speculation and superstition makes for fascinating (if somewhat jarring) reading."
The title family in Tinniswood's 2007 book The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England earned its way into the history books because of its close connection to England's royal family. The book, in fact, spans several centuries, beginning in the mid-1400s, with the establishment of the Verney estate in Buckinghamshire, through to the early twentieth-century, when the estate was taken over by distant Verney relatives. Tinniswood spends the majority of the book, however, with the Verneys of the 1600s, specifically three generations who lived in Claydon House during the seventeenth century. "With enormous flair and skill," wrote a critic for the Economist, "Mr. Tinniswood uses the lives of these ordinary men and women to tell a much larger story about British cultural, political and social life in the 17th century. In doing so he provides a model for how biography and social history—two genres which have tended to remain oddly aloof from one another—can be made to work magnificently together." A reviewer for the New Yorker commented: "Tinniswood's portraits are intimate, compelling, and deftly situated within the broader historical period." "Even readers unfamiliar with English history will be able to enjoy this absorbing family history," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Apollo, December, 1990, Eileen Harris, review of A History of Country House Visiting: Five Centuries of Tourism and Taste, p. 430.
Booklist, December 1, 2003, Gavin Quinn, review of By Permission of Heaven: The True Story of the Great Fire of London, p. 636.
Economist, September 1, 2001, "Monumental: Sir Christopher Wren"; March 3, 2007, review of The Verneys: A True Story of Love, War, and Madness in Seventeenth-Century England, p. 87.
History Today, April, 1995, review of Life in the English Country Cottage, p. 57.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2001, review of His Invention So Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren, p. 1540; November 1, 2003, review of By Permission of Heaven, p. 1307.
Library Journal, June 1, 1992, Stephen Allan Patrick, review of The National Trust: Historic Houses of Britain, p. 122; January, 2002, Paul Glassman, review of His Invention So Fertile, p. 99.
New Yorker, June 11, 2007, review of The Verneys, p. 130.
New York Times Book Review, August 22, 1999, Angeline Goreau, "Please Wipe Your Feet: A Survey of 400 Years of Tourists Visiting Other People's Homes," p. 27; December 30, 2001, James F. O'Gorman, "The Master Builder: For Christopher Wren, It Was a Logical Progression from Studying the Celestial Dome to Erecting Earthly Ones," p. 9; January 6, 2002, review of His Invention So Fertile, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly, April, 1999, review of The Polite Tourist: Four Centuries of Country House Visiting, p. 56; November 5, 2001, review of His Invention So Fertile, p. 50; November 10, 2003, review of By Permission of Heaven, p. 52; March 19, 2007, review of The Verneys, p. 58.
Spectator, July 28, 2001, Peter J.M. Wayne, review of His Invention So Fertile, p. 31.
Times Educational Supplement, July 6, 1990, Patrick Bailey, review of Cross Currents: A Coastal Studies Handbook for Teachers, p. 28.
Times Literary Supplement, July 14, 1995, Geoffrey Tyack, review of Life in the English Country Cottage, p. 13; September 14, 2001, review of His Invention So Fertile, p. 19.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December, 1994, Patrick T. Reardon, review of Country Houses from the Air, p. 7.
Adrian Tinniswood Web site,http://www.adriantinniswood.co.uk (September 11, 2007).