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With the Restoration a considerable number of landowners returned to England from the continent to take up their residence once again and repair the damage that had been done to their confiscated estates during the years of their exile.
These years of exile in France and Holland had served-however unwittingly -to educate the Englishman to an appreciation, of the French Renaissance as it flourished under the patronage of Louis XIV. This was a fine example from which to rebuild and decorate, as was the example of Italian building already set, though not so far appreciated, by the work of Inigo Jones.
The Plague as well as the Great Fire of London played their part in the clearance and dispersion of the old familiar way of life. The Plague was the cause of a number of fine new houses being built-away from contamination-in the home counties, and the Fire destroyed so many old homes that new ones had to be built in their place. It was a golden opportunity for the young and enterprising architect and artist, and, History repeating itself as it had done during the Renaissance in Italy, a host of men of artistic genius, many-sided in their comprehensive abilities, sprang into the limelight of fame. Of these Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), John Webb (1611-1674) -the talented pupil and assistant of Inigo Jones-and Grinling Gibbons had the greatest influence and effect on the architecture and decoration of the homes with which we are chiefly concerned.
Thus was the stage set, and within a very few years of the Restoration the old-fashioned house was an object of derision rather than an interesting antique. Apart from the fine examples of many existing houses of this time, we are also fortunate in the collection of records written by the rapidly growing educated classes. Much valuable information is to be found in the diaries of John Evelyn, Samuel Pepys, the `Journeys of Celia Fiennes' and the many works of Daniel Defoe as well as a score of lesser known writers of this particular period. Each in their way saw the innovations of their time and recorded them with a wealth of intimate detail and very human criticism.