Waddesdon Manor's north front
|Location||Waddesdon, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP18 0JH|
Waddesdon Manor is a country house in the village of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire, England. It is located in the Aylesbury Vale, 6.6 miles (10.6 km) west of Aylesbury. The house was built in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898) as a weekend residence for grand entertaining and as a setting for his collection.
The last member of the Rothschild family to own Waddesdon was James de Rothschild (1878–1957). He bequeathed the house and its contents to the National Trust. It is now managed by the Rothschild Foundation chaired by Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild. It is one of the National Trust's most visited properties, with over 390,000 visitors annually. Waddesdon Manor won Visit England's Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category in 2017.
In 1874, Baron Ferdinand bought a farming estate from the Duke of Marlborough with money inherited from his father Anselm. He was familiar with the estate as he had seen it while hunting in the area. There was no existing house, park or garden, only a bare hill that had been stripped of its timber. The foundation stone was laid on 18 August 1877, and the site was quickly transformed.
The first house party was held in May 1880 with seven of Ferdinand's close male friends enjoying a grand fireworks display. When the main house was ready in 1883, Ferdinand invited 20 guests to stay. Before his premature death in 1898, on weekends between May and September Baron Ferdinand played host to many important guests including the future Edward VII, politicians and members of The Souls group. House parties usually involved 14 to 20 people coming to stay
Guests commented on the level of luxury service provided by the 24 house staff. In 1890, Queen Victoria unusually requested to pay a visit. She was impressed with the beauty of the house and grounds as well as Ferdinand's ability to quietly manage the day's events. She was struck by the newly installed electric lights, especially designed to look like candles in the chandeliers, and it is reported that she asked for the room to be darkened to fully witness the effect.
When Baron Ferdinand died in 1898, the house passed to his sister Alice de Rothschild. She saw Waddesdon as a memorial for her brother and was committed to preserving it. She did add significant items to the collection, particularly furniture and carpets with French royal provenances, Meissen porcelain, textiles and armor
Following Alice de Rothschild's death in 1922, the property and collections passed to her French great-nephew James A. "Jimmy" de Rothschild, who was married to an English woman, Dorothy Pinto. James further enriched the Manor with objects from the collections of his late father Baron Edmond James de Rothschild of Paris.
James and Dorothy hosted a Liberal Party rally at Waddesdon in 1928, where David Lloyd George addressed the crowd. During World War II, children under the age of five were evacuated from Croydon and lived at Waddesdon Manor, the only time children lived in the house. James and Dorothy also provided asylum for a group of Jewish boys from Frankfurt at Waddesdon.
When James de Rothschild died in 1957, he bequeathed Waddesdon Manor, 120 acres (0.49 km2) of grounds and its contents to the National Trust, to be preserved for posterity. Dorothy moved to Eythrope and the Manor was never again used as a residence. Dorothy chaired the new management committee in close collaboration with the National Trust and took a very keen interest in Waddesdon for the remainder of her long life.
At Dorothy's death in 1989, Jacob Rothschild inherited her position and responsibilities. At his initiative, the Manor underwent a major restoration from 1990 to 1997, and the visitor attractions were enhanced, including the creation of the Waddesdon Wine Cellars.
From 2004-2006, the Baron's Room and Green Boudoir were restored to reflect Baron Ferdinand's original arrangements. In 2003 a burglary was committed involving the Johnson Gang, when approximately 100 gold snuff boxes and other items were stolen from the collection prompting the installation of new security measures.
New works of art have been acquired by the Rothschild Foundation to complement the existing collections at Waddesdon, such as Le Faiseur de Châteaux de Cartes by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, added in 2007.
There has also been a program of engagement with contemporary artists, beginning with Angus Fairhurst represented by Arnolfini in 2009. Works have been sited near the Manor and on the wider estate including by Richard Long, Sarah Lucas as well as Angus Fairhurst. In 2012, Christie's chose the Manor to exhibit sculptures by leading contemporary artists..
Between 2013 to 2017, Bruce Munro had a residency at Waddesdon Manor, beginning with the musical and light piece Cantus Arcticus in the Coach House Gallery in 2013. Winter Light (2013), with its distinctive wigwam type structures sited in the gardens of the Manor, was Munro’s first solo exhibition of his large-scale pieces; Winter Light returned in 2016-2017. In 2014, Munro developed his pod-like structures, adding elements of language in Snow Code, shown in the Manor. In ...---…SOS, Munro’s winter exhibition of 2015-2016, tents were lit up in tune with sound, in response to images of disaster relief.
In 2012, Edmund de Waal exhibited work in the Manor, creating a dialogue between his work and the historical interiors. In 2015, artist Joana Vasconcelos was commissioned to install two sculptures entitled Lafite in front of the Manor. In 2016, Kate Malone exhibited a collection of new work inspired by the people, gardens, collections and archive. Two portrait pots of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild and Alice de Rothschild by Malone remain on display at the Manor.
Prior to the construction of Waddesdon Manor, no house existed on the site. Ferdinand de Rothschild wanted a house in the style of the great Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley. Ferdinand chose as his architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur. Destailleur was already experienced in working in this style, having overseen the restoration of many châteaux in that region, in particular that of the Château de Mouchy.
Through Destailleur's vision, Waddesdon embodied an eclectic style based on the châteaux so admired by his patron, Baron Ferdinand. The towers at Waddesdon were based on those of the Château de Maintenon, and the twin staircase towers, on the north facade, were inspired by the staircase tower at the Château de Chambord. However, following the theme of unparalleled luxury at Waddesdon, the windows of the towers at Waddesdon were glazed, unlike those of the staircase at Chambord. They are also far more ornate.
The structural design of Waddesdon was not all retrospective. Hidden from view were the most modern innovations of the late 19th century including a steel frame, which took the strain of walls on the upper floors, which consequently permitted the layout of these floors to differ completely from the lower floors. The house also had hot and cold running water in its bathrooms, central heating, and an electric bell system to summon the numerous servants. The building contractor was Edward Conder & Son.
After the Manor was completed in 1883, Ferdinand quickly decided it was too small. The Bachelors' Wing to the east was extended after 1885 and the Morning Room, built in late-Gothic style, was added to the west after 1888.
The stables to the west of the Manor were built in 1884. Ferdinand and his stud groom devised the plan, working with Conder. Destailleur designed the façades in a French 17th-century style.
The Wine Cellars in the Manor were created during the Centenary Restoration and opened in 1994. They are modeled on the private cellars at Château Lafite Rothschild. More than 15,000 bottles are stored in the Cellars, some 150 years old, the majority from the Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild estates. It is the largest private collection of Rothschild wines in the world. There are also wine labels designed by artists such as Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol.
Once his château was complete, Baron Ferdinand installed his extensive collections of English 18th-century portraits by artists like Gainsborough and Reynolds, as well as French 18th-century boiseries, Savonnerie carpets, Gobelins and Beauvais tapestries, furniture, Sèvres ceramics, books, Dutch paintings and Renaissance treasures.
Works were acquired for their exquisite quality and fine provenance, particularly those belonging to French royalty of the Ancien Régime. One of the highlights of the collection is the extraordinary musical automaton elephant, dating from 1774 and made by the French clockmaker H Martinet.
Of the ten surviving examples of the Sèvres pot-pourri vase in the shape of a ship from the 1760s, three are at Waddesdon, including one with a very rare scene of a battle connected to the Seven Years' War.
In the 1890s, Baron Ferdinand focused on the Renaissance collection for his small museum in the New Smoking Room. This collection was bequeathed to the British Museum and is now known as the Waddesdon Bequest.
The interior of Waddesdon Manor was photographed in 1897 for Baron Ferdinand's privately published The Red Book.
Waddesdon’s internationally famous collection has thus been formed principally by four members of the Rothschild family: Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898), his sister Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922), their cousin Edmond James de Rothschild (1845-1934) and the present Lord Jacob Rothschild (b. 1936).
To create the gardens, extensive landscaping of the hill was carried out, including leveling the top of the hill. The gardens and landscape park were laid out by the French landscape architect Elie Lainé. An attempt was made to transplant full-grown trees by chloroforming their roots, to limit the shock. While this novel idea was unsuccessful, many very large trees were successfully transplanted. Elaborate flower beds were created, centred on the south Parterre. Several artificial rock formations were also created by James Pulham.
The gardens were enhanced with statuary and fountains. The Proserpina fountain was brought to the Manor at the end of the 19th century from the Palace of the Dukes of Parma in northern Italy: the Ducal Palace of Colorno. The gardens are listed Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.
Alice de Rothschild was a keen gardener with a good understanding of flowers and plants, she would often walk around and weed the paths. With her head gardener, George Frederick Johnson who worked at Waddesdon from 1905 to 1954, Alice grew flowers for competition. Alice was responsible for introducing three-dimensional bedding in the shape of a bird, recreated in the gardens today.
Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild also created a cast-iron aviary, inspired by 18th-century pavilions at the Palace of Versailles and Château de Chantilly, as well as his childhood home at Grüneburg. It was completed in 1889. Like other members of his family, such as Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, Ferdinand was a keen animal lover. He stocked the aviary with exotic birds and enjoyed feeding them for his guests.
The aviary's paint and gilding were restored in 2003 and it now houses endangered species with a focus on breeding programs.
In Ferdinand's time, there was a large kitchen garden and extensive glass houses growing fruit and flowers, including Ferdinand's beloved orchids. They were near the Dairy Water garden which has elaborate rock formations by James Pulham. As part of the day's entertainments, Ferdinand's guests were taken to the ornamental Dairy to taste milk from cows who wore Meissen porcelain name tags.
In recent years, commissions to contemporary architects have occurred on the wider estate. Windmill Hill Archive (2011) was designed by Stephen Marshall. Flint House (2015) was designed by Skene Catling de la Peña. It won RIBA House of the Year in 2015.
Film and television
Multiple films have been shot at Waddesdon Manor, including the Carry On film Don't Lose Your Head (1966); Never Say Never Again (1983); An Ideal Husband (1999); the Indian film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001); Ladies in Lavender (2004); The Queen (2006), in which interiors and the gardens doubled for Buckingham Palace; The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008); Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011); A Little Chaos (2014); Victor Frankenstein (2015), Our Kind of Traitor (2016); and The Infiltrator (2016).
Waddesdon Manor has also been used in many television series. These include Howards' Way (1985) as a chateau in France belonging to Charles Freere. The house more recently stood in for the exterior of the fictional Haxby Park in the second series of Downton Abbey (2011) (the interior was filmed at Halton House, another country home once owned by the Rothschilds). Estate roads featured in And Then There Were None (BBC One, 26–28 December 2015). Exteriors also feature in The Crown (TV series), 2016.
- National Trust Annual Report 2015/2016 Retrieved 26 April 2017.
- Visit England 2017 winners Retrieved 26 April 2017.
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- Police arrest gang Retrieved 28 September 2015
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- Joana Vasconcelos in conversation with Jacob Rothschild about the Lafite sculpture at Waddesdon Retrieved 28 September 2015
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- A Marvellous Elephant Retrieved 28 September 2015
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- The Aviary at Waddesdon Manor Retrieved 20 June 2016
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- "Whistle down the windmill". World Architecture News. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
- Wainwright, Oliver. "Flint House". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2015.
- "Flint House wins". Royal Institute of British Architects. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2016
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- Girouard, Mark, A Hundred Years at Waddesdon, published by Rothschild Waddesdon, 1998, ISBN 0-9527809-2-5
- Hall, Michael and John Bigelow Taylor, Waddesdon Manor: The Heritage of a Rothschild House (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2002) ISBN 0-8109-0507-8
- Rothschild, Dorothy de, The Rothschilds at Waddesdon Manor (Collins, 1979) ISBN 0-00-216671-2
- Schwartz, Selma, "The Waddesdon Companion Guide", 3rd revised ed., (The Alice Trust, Waddesdon Manor, 2008) ISBN
- Dora Thornton, A Rothschild Renaissance: The Waddesdon Bequest (British Museum Publications, 2015) ISBN 978-0714123455
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Waddesdon Manor.|
- Official website
- Waddesdon Manor YouTube channel
- Waddesdon Manor at the National Trust
- Historical Images of Waddesdon Manor House, Gardens and Aviary
- Waddesdon Manor entry from The DiCamillo Companion to British & Irish Country Houses
- Waddesdon Manor QuickTime Virtual Reality image of Waddesdon Manor's parterre