An English country house is a large house or mansion in the English countryside. Such houses were often owned by individuals who also owned a town house. This allowed them to spend time in the country and in the city—hence, for these people, the term distinguished between town and country. However, the term also encompasses houses that were, and often still are, the full-time residence for the landed gentry. These people were central to the squirearchy that ruled rural Britain until the Reform Act 1832. Frequently, the formal business of the counties was transacted in these country houses. With large numbers of indoor and outdoor staff, country houses were important as places of employment for many rural communities.