After visiting the Wimpole Estate in England, I'm wondering how many people would have been needed to make such a project viable.

The country house on the site today started construction in 1640, and the first version of it was finished ten years later. I'm ignoring future modifications to try and make things simpler.

There would have needed to be available labour for ten years, supporting agriculture, nearby settlements, presumably also people supplying building materials.

Are there any estimates of the number of people who would be directly involved in a country house's construction? Or the size of community needed to support the endeavour indirectly?

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    Mennonite communities in North America, to this day, raise a barn in 12 straight hours - with upwards of 100 people cutting wood, shaping boards and beams, raising the structure, and preparing food and drink. Your question is in a sense meaningless, as the number of people is not a relevant measure. If it took 10 years to raise the structure, it is likely that far fewer workmen were involved than could have efficiently contributed simultaneously. Cash-flow rather than total required effort dictates the elapsed time. – Pieter Geerkens May 25 '17 at 21:17
  • Also, you have not specified the starting materials available - are you including the quarrying of the stone and its transport in the required work? What about the manufacture of boards? Which interior fixtures are to be included? When constructing a boat, it is launched roughly half-way through the process, as soon as watertight, to free up the dry dock. Likewise a house is "liveable" well before it is completely finished. – Pieter Geerkens May 25 '17 at 21:21
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    I think that Malcolm Airs produced some estimates, based on surviving building accounts & correspondence, in his book The Making of the English Country House, 1500‐1640. I don't have a copy of the book any more, but I will see if I can find one locally. – sempaiscuba May 26 '17 at 12:13
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    @sempaiscuba Thanks for the recommendation! Used copies seem to be cheap on amazon, so I've got one from there – Simon Fraser May 26 '17 at 13:35
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    If the book does answer your question, please post the information as an answer. – justCal May 26 '17 at 14:06

English country houses varied a lot in size and technology and the era they were built in. The cost and number of workers who built them no doubt greatly varied.

Legend claims that William Beckford was so eager and impatient while building his legendary Fonthill Abbey that he employed hundreds of workmen and had them work in shifts around the clock with hundreds of torches for light at night. Yet it took 17 years from 1796 to 1813 to build.

Beckford's 500 labourers worked in day and night shifts. He bribed 450 more from the building of the new royal apartments at Windsor Castle by increasing an ale ration to speed things up.


Mark Girouard in The Victorian Country House 1979, Introduction, section 8 "The Building of a Country House", page 17, says about Westonbirt: "When building was at its height nearly 300 men were on the payroll. At Bear Wood, in June 1868, no less than 380 men sat down for a banquet given by the owner, John Walter of The Times, to celebrate the roofing-in of the house."

Westonbirt House is described on pages 424 to 425 and was built from 1863 to 1870. Bear Wood is described in chapter 20, pages 263-272 and was built from 1865 to 1874.

These examples show that even when a large country house took years to slowly build there were sometimes hundreds of workers employed at one time.

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