Tim Knox, architectural historian at the National Trust, likes his heritage 'in an extremely worn condition'. He dates his fascination for 'forlorn grandeur' to his childhood when he occasionally played in the grounds of Gunton Park in Norfolk, begun by Matthew Brettingham for the Harbord family in the early eighteenth century and added to later by Samuel Wyatt and James Wyatt. 'The whole park was in terminal decline, the lake was clogged with fallen trees, stables were collapsing and there was a rotting Adam chapel. It was immensely atmospheric.'
Knox also likes grandiose buildings at which the English tend to 'wrinkle up their noses' - St Peter's, the Escorial and in this country places like Wentworth Woodhouse and Stowe. Mausolea are another interest. He has recently had first-hand experience of the Darnley Mausoleum at Cobham Hall in Kent (pictured), designed by James Wyatt in 1783 and 'haunting in its Piranesian presence'. The mausoleum was never used and was systematically vandalised over the years, culminating in a fire in the 1980s. Knox is helping to secure its long-term future, but he does not want to see it over-restored, believing that 'it would be a bit of a lie to restore it to its pristine splendour'. For Tim Knox, mausolea, like decaying English country houses, represent 'a dwindling asset'.