Silesia: the Land of Dying Country Houses
A Report by Marcus Binney, Kit Martin and Wojciech Wagner for SAVE Europe’s Heritage
Publication Date: 5 October 2009
Silesia, in western Poland, was one of the richest and most fertile provinces in Europe. Almost every village had its own great house and grand set of farm buildings. Many of these remarkable houses now stand empty and decaying - a product of Silesia’s turbulent history. This report identifies the scale of the problem, describing over 100 houses, most in desperate need of repair, and suggesting strategies for rescue and reuse.
Among them are fine examples, large and small, of Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-classical and Romantic architecture. Yet the overwhelming majority stand empty and disused and many of these are crumbling rapidly into ruin. Nearby there are often large courtyards of farm buildings with distinctive eyebrow roofs sweeping over the upper windows. These houses often stand in the heart of villages many of which are only two or three kilometres apart, for this is fertile farming country.
This book not only captures the desperate plight of these remarkable houses, but looks at the ways in which they might be brought back into life, by new owners, whether as single houses or sensitively divided for several families to occupy. A few have been successfully restored as hotels. When Poland gained independence from the Soviet bloc, many of these properties were handed to an agricultural agency with a view to selling them. But most of the sales have been to speculators and the houses remain empty.
The plight of these houses is a product of Silesia’s turbulent history. First Polish, then Czech and thereafter Austrian, it was seized by the Prussians in the mid-18th century. As the Soviet armies thrust into Germany early in 1945, the German population fled and was evicted, to be replaced by Poles who had been evicted by the Soviets from the east of Poland.
This book is intended for all those fascinated by great country houses and the families which lived in them, whether as armchair reading, property guide or companion on a tour of Silesia.
NOTES TO EDITORS
SAVE Europe's Heritage seeks to highlight the plight of endangered historic buildings throughout Europe. For more information and images contact William Palin, T: 020 7253 3500 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Silesia: the Land of Dying Country Houses is available from SAVE Europe’s Heritage, priced at £15 (£13 for friends of SAVE). Contact SAVE at:
70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ. T: 020 7253 3500 E: email@example.com
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