Calendar houses

If you were fabulously wealthy and fashionable in the 16th and 17th centuries you might demonstrate your power and influence by building a grand house. Hundreds were built across England, serving the landed aspirations of a burgeoning nobility. But a handful had a design concept that was quite unique – these are the ‘calendar houses’, built according to numerological principles to represent the days, weeks or months of a year.

In 1604, Thomas Sackville, the 1st Earl of Dorset, built Knole House. It had 365 rooms, 52 staircases and 7 courtyards to represent the number of days and weeks in a year and the number of days in a week. It started an minor architectural trend where buildings were designed according to the number of days, weeks, months or seasons in a year. It was an idea that fascinated a noble class interested in horology, astronomy, mathematics and symbolism.

As The Country Seat puts it: “the principle of the calendar house is that the number of external doors, windows or panes of glass, chimneys, or staircases etc should total either 4 (the number seasons), 7 (days in a week), 12 (months in a year), or 365 (days in a year).”

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