Scores of elderly people are to lose their homes and 149 workers are being made redundant because the country houses where they live and work are being sold.
Gosfield Hall, Essex, was built in 1545
The Country Houses' Association (CHA) has announced it is closing down its residential business and selling the eight Grade I and II listed buildings it owns.
Now the 159 elderly residents, some in their 80s and 90s, have been told they have six months to find new homes.
The staff who look after them have been told they will be made redundant when the residents move out.
Each of the properties are elegantly furnished, often with antique furniture.
The residents are mainly retired professionals who paid deposits of up to £140,000 to rent the apartments.
In a statement the CHA said the historic properties in Berkshire, Devon, Essex, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire would close by mid 2004 because of a falling demand for the apartments.
The statement said: "The decision to close was necessary due to falling demand for the particular serviced apartments offered, the increasing age-profile of the residents, the increasing regulations surrounding business and the significant level of losses that all of this has produced and is forecast to produce in the future."
Albury Park, Surrey
Aynhoe Park, Oxfordshire
Gosfield Hall, Essex
Great Maytham Hall, Kent
Swallowfield Park, Berkshire
The CHA is a friendly society with a charitable status, formed to preserve the country houses in its possession for the benefit of the nation.
They said the trustees could not use charity funds to support loss-making businesses with no future prospects.
Diana Clement, whose mother Lady Benda Milverton has been at Flete House for 24 years, said: "It's a catastrophe.
"My mother is 99 this week and this is worst news she could have had for her birthday.
"These are elderly people who have planned to spend the rest of their days there."
A series of meetings are planned over the next few weeks to keep residents and staff informed about the situation.