22 things you probably never knew about Country Life
January 7, 2022
125 years of Country Life
I never knew that about Country Life…
Country Life launched on 8 January 1897, and incorporated Racing Illustrated, a sports paper that analysed the form of horses and jockeys prior to big races and supplied the results to races that had already been run.
It’s been published without interruption since that date, even through two World Wars.
The founder Edward Hudson, a shy Londoner who was passionate about country houses, got the idea while driving his sick brother around the countryside.
The first Frontispiece page—now universally known as the ‘Girls in Pearls’ page—actually featured a man: the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire.
facts about country life
- Sir Winston Churchill has been a Frontispiece, as were Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on the occasion of their engagement.
- The first nude Frontispiece was restaurant owner Sophia Burrell, who was photographed in the style of Botticelli in 1999; the first body piercing to appear was that of Miss Eugenie Warre in 2001.
- In 1904, Sir Edwin Lutyens, a renowned architect of English country houses, was commissioned to build Hudson House, 8 Tavistock Street, London WC2 as the headquarters of Country Life. We are sadly no longer located there.
- The chairs Lutyens designed for Hudson were in the present Editor’s office until the office — located in Farnborough — closed for good in early 2021. The team now works largely remotely, meeting a day or two per week in Reading or London… as well as the various teams sometimes getting together in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Yorkshire, or beyond.
- In the 1900s, Country Life observed that the most fashionable flowers were rambling roses and roses planted with lavender—a century on, and they are still the romantic ideal.
- Knight Frank & Rutley appropriated page 3 of Country Life in 1912 and have remained there ever since.
- In 1913, Lord Runciman described Country Life as the ‘keeper of the architectural conscience of the nation’.
- The first gardens editor was the renowned plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll, whose waves of colour are, for many, still the horticultural ideal.
- During the First World War, readers were encouraged to take their old copies of Country Life to the Post Office, where they would be sent, at no charge, to troops in the trenches.
- In 1914 Country Life ran a competition to design a golf hole. The competition was won by a Yorkshire GP – Dr Alister MacKenzie – a former Army surgeon who used ideas he had learnt in the Boer War about camouflage in his design. The hole was built at a golf course in America, kick-starting a career in golf course architecture which ultimately led to Mackenzie creating the iconic Augusta National golf course.
- During the First World War, Country Life published special issues about the allies. America’s entry into the war prompted the first ever colour photograph published by the magazine.
- Founded in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, Country Life has observed the comings and goings of six monarchs and 22 Prime Ministers.
- The then Editor, Christopher Hussey, had a seat in Westminster Abbey when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. He wrote: ‘She is looking radiantly young and beautiful … I can feel the tremor as thousands catch their breath’.
- The magazine has a distinguished history of campaigning journalism. In the 1920s, it saw off a threat to Stonehenge, which was to become the site of a new aerodrome and garage. More recently, a reader in New York sent a cheque for £130,000 to help red squirrel conservation efforts.
- Former National Trust chairman Simon Jenkins was once a junior sub at Country Life, where his duties included giving the good news to successful Frontispieces. His own fiancée, Hannah Kaye, appeared as a Frontispiece in the September 10, 2014 issue.
- Today, the average value of houses advertised in Country Life is £2.25m (UK average £240K).
- The current Archbishop of Canterbury wrote the Easter leader in 2013.
- Prince Charles acted as Guest Editor for the November 13, 2013 issue on the occasion of his 65th birthday, and again in 2018 to mark his 70th birthday. Princess Anne followed suit in 2021 and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, will take the reins of the magazine in July 2022.