The Repton Gazette and Brown Advisor

300 Frequently Asked Questions about Capability Brown, and a further 200 about Humphry Repton

289: What is the difference between a house and a hall?

Ms K has been in touch from Leeds over a matter of propriety. She wonders if Dukes always live in palaces, and if there is a pecking order in the names of houses as there is in the orders of the nobility. By way of sample she offers me: Abbey, Castle, Court, Hall, House, Manor, Mansion, Palace, Park, Place and Priory.

Well Ms K, of church houses, Abbey and Priory, Abbey definitely rings better,

Castle is good, but Court and Hall smack of trying too hard to claim a mediaeval origin and should in most circumstances be avoided.

House is superbly unassuming and hard to fault, save for false modesty

Manor has the faults of Court and Hall, but bespeaks something less of a house – even a parish may have three or four manors in it.

Mansion is dreadful, we should not speak of it.

Palace is for princes and bishops and has no part in any other place.

Park smacks of pretension

Place seems to me tautologous

Finally the country estate that is simply a name is supreme, as ‘Chatsworth’ rather than ‘Chatsworth House’.

This gives me an order as follows:

the name alone – as Chatsworth, Longleat or Bowood

Palace – of limited use, being exclusive to princes and bishops

Castle – Here then is the nub of the question for afficionadoes of the admirable Capability Brown. I have to acknowledge that I have not sampled the whole population of country seats to see whether he had a preference for one style of nomenclature over another, but I fancy that castles cast a considerable shadow on his catechism. One sees the attraction: castles being not only mediaeval in origin but also baronial by association. It was the barons in their castles who defied King John and forced his signature to the Magna Carta. It was the barons (in the mind of the Whig historians of the 18th century) who first brought the idea of liberty to England.

House – unassuming, English and generally to be admired

Abbey – of sound provenance, as in Woburn and Milton Abbeys

Priory – as in Sandleford Priory, somehow slightly more specious than an Abbey

Manor – there are manors everywhere, and they are not necessarily places of any distinction, its modesty therefore commends it.

Park – Moor Park, Cornbury and Hackwood were all called parks to show that the houses had ancient parks – fair enough. On the other hand Bramham called itself a park only ten years after it had been cut out of the moor, which rather tainted the brand.

Place – harmless but unnecessary, all houses are places

Court and Hall – despite Wimpole Hall, I suspect these of a false claim to antiquity

Mansion – an ugly word, French in origin too I fear and associated with people with too much money.



288: Is Brown known in Europe?


282: With whom did Brown take coffee?


  1. Charles Boot

    Blenheim Palace?

    • The Brown Advisor

      Dear Lord Buckingham, Blenheim Palace was so called because the 1st Duke of Marlborough was made a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1705 – Prince of Mindelheim in fact. Does this resolve your query?

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By John Phibbs