Between 1540 and 1920 the English elite transformed the countryside and landscape by building up landed estates which were concentrated around their country houses. John Broad's study of the Verney family of Middle Claydon in Buckinghamshire demonstrates two sides of that process. Charting the family's rise to wealth impelled by a strong dynastic imperative, Broad shows how the Verneys sought out heiress marriages to expand wealth and income. In parallel, he shows how the family managed its estates to maximize income and transformed three local village communities, creating a pattern of 'open' and 'closed' villages familiar to nineteenth-century commentators. Based on the formidable Verney family archive with its abundant correspondence, this book also examines the world of poor relief, farming families as well as strategies for estate expansion and social enhancement. It will appeal to anyone interested in the English countryside as a dynamic force in social and economic history.