With everyone excited that Downton Abbey is back for another season, there's a lot of interest about English manor houses. PBS showed a program, Secrets of the Manor House, last Sunday. It was over a thousand years ago that the King began rewarding returning warriors land and a title for their services. The highest of these was the title of Duke. There's more about the order of precedence here.
The manor house employed as many as one hundred servants per family with the Butler and Housekeeper in charge of the lower servants.
There were disadvantages to inheriting property, along with a title, as is portrayed in Downton Abbey. An entail was included in the conveyance of property as far back as the 13th century. The entail prevented property from being sold and required it to be passed on to the oldest son (heir) along with the title (primogeniture).
If you want to read more about these houses, Mark Girouard has a wonderful book called Life in the English Country House.