Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks
Reading Time:  11 minutes

© GavinJA/cc-by-sa-3.0

© GavinJA/cc-by-sa-3.0

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 Grade I listed 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 467,000 visitors annually. Waddesdon Manor won Visit England‘s Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category in 2017.

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. Subsequent members of the family added noted collections of paintings, Limoges enamel, arms and armour, maiolica, manuscripts, prints and drawings. 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).

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. In 2012, it was announced that Waddesdon Manor would be one of the sites for Jubilee Woodlands, designated by the Woodland Trust to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

Dutch and English paintings in the Morning Room © National Trust - Waddesdon Manor/John Bigelow Taylor/cc-by-sa-4.0 Tower Drawing Room © flickr.com - Chris Hoare/cc-by-2.0 © Nigel Betts/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Mattlever/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Daderot © DeFacto/cc-by-sa-4.0 © GavinJA/cc-by-sa-3.0 The wine cellars © National Trust - Waddesdon Manor/Mike Fear/cc-by-sa-4.0 The Parterre © National Trust - Waddesdon Manor/Chris Lacey/cc-by-sa-4.0 Stables at Waddesdon Manor © geograph.org.uk - Chris J Dixon/cc-by-sa-2.0 Restored Smoking Room © National Trust - Waddesdon Manor/Chris Lacey/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Daderot © National Trust - Waddesdon Manor/John Bigelow Taylor/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Dutch and English paintings in the Morning Room © National Trust - Waddesdon Manor/John Bigelow Taylor/cc-by-sa-4.0
Baron Ferdinand wanted a garden to entertain his guests during his weekend house parties. To make 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 planted, centred on the south Parterre. Several artificial rock formations were created by James Pulham, including to house mountain goats and llamas, part of Ferdinand’s zoo. After her brother’s death Alice brought the care she had taken with her garden at Eythrope to Waddesdon. Alice 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. Under James, the gardens were less impressive. The South Parterre was grassed over in the 1930s. It was replanted with flowers for the opening of the house under the National Trust in 1959. As part of the 1990s restoration, Beth Rothschild led a team re-introducing Ferdinand’s color scheme of trees, shrubs and bedding plants. The carpet bedding is now designed on computer allowing the schemes to be quickly installed. The patterns change each year to reflect different themes. The gardens are listed Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Though the trees are not of a great age there are many specimens of deciduous and coniferous trees that have now reached maturity creating the desired effect in the Waddesdon landscape. Some of these trees were planted in the 1870s and responsibility for this fell to William Barron whose job it was to transplant trees from the surrounding countryside to give the grounds of Waddesdon a sense of maturity, creating vistas and focal points under the instructions from Elie Lainé. Deciduous trees were selected on their form, flowering and array of autumnal color. Conifers were selected for their evergreen nature, cones and berries. Today many species such as chestnuts, limes and maples as well as yew, cedars and redwoods can be seen. From Baron Ferdinand’s time to today, distinguished visitors have been invited to plant memorial trees. Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V and Queen Mary of Teck were early royal visitors. More recently, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales and Prime Ministers Sir John Major and Tony Blair have also planted trees.

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild acquired many fine statues and fountains to add interest to the gardens. A notable feature is his love of 18th-century Italian pieces. The fountains to the north and south of the house include sculptures of Pluto, Proserpina, tritons and nereids originally made by Giuliano Mozani around 1720 for the Ducal Palace of Colorno. A bust of the muse Erato has been recently attributed to Filippo Parodi. A fine example of French early 18th-century sculpture is sited near the Aviary: Apollo by Jean Raon, 1699, associated with a commission at Versailles. There are also Dutch vases in the style of Albert Jansz Vinckenbrinck and sculptures by Jan van Logteren, the latter were originally displayed at Aston Clinton House. In 2001, Stephen Cox‘s tomb-like sculpture Interior Space: Terra degli Etruschi was installed at the end of the Baron’s Walk. Inscribed on a nearby marble slab are the names of the Rothschilds who built and have cared for Waddesdon.

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 also keen animal lover. He stocked the aviary with exotic birds and enjoyed feeding them for his guests.

Read more on Waddesdon Manor, NationalTrust.org.uk – Waddesdon Manor, Times of Israel, 20 October 2019: When UK’s ‘Jewish Downton Abbey’ hosted royalty, PMs, and young wartime evacuees and Wikipedia Waddesdon Manor (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.








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