Waddesdon Manor is a Louis XIV style French renaissance château lavishly built in the heart of the Buckinghamshire countryside by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild. As extravagant as you would expect, Waddesdon Manor is one the grandest country houses in the UK and contains an internationally significant collection of 18th century French furnishings and 18th and 19th century paintings.
Key Facts about Waddesdon Manor
- Waddesdon Manor is located in the town of Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire, England.
- Waddesdon Manor was built between the years of 1874 and 1889 by architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild.
- The Manor and its contents were bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957 but still overseen by the Rothschild Trust.
History of the House
In 1874 at the age of 35 the recently widowed Ferdinand de Rothschild of the Viennese branch bought a plot of land in the Vale of Aylesbury and set about his lifelong mission of building a Louis XIV style French Renaissance Chateau in the heart of the English Countryside. Rothschild along with his architect Gabriel-HippolyteDestailleur conceived of a house in the style of the great Renaissance Châteaux of the Loire Valley, a style in which Destailleur had much experience due to his restoration work on many house châteaux in that region.
Internally, the house was designed to utilise the most modern structural design and architectural principles of the time, including a steel framework supporting the upper floors, central heating and an electric bell system, said to have been coveted by Queen Victoria during her visit in 1890. Externally, Waddesdon Manor was the picture of ornate and opulent French Renaissance style.
Waddesdon features a stunning twin staircase on the north facade, inspired by that of the Chateau de Chambord and its towers are inspired by those of the Chateau de Maintenon. Visitors approach Waddesdon Manor by ascending a winding, tree-lined driveway that suddenly opens up to view across a beautiful Italian garden to the Manor’s spectacular facade complete with pinnacles, turrets and chimneys unlike any seen in the Buckinghamshire countryside.
The gardens at Waddesdon Manor were designed by French landscape architect Ellie Lane and, in an extravagant move for the time, many full-grown trees were transplanted around the grounds. Pavillions, statuary and an aviary were added to the gardens along with the crowning finish of The Proserpina fountain, brought to Waddesdon at the end of the 19th century from the Ducal Palace of Colorno in Italy.
The influence of the most extravagant Frenchman in history, Louis XIV, can be seen in even headier doses within the walls of Waddesdon Manor. The furnishings, fittings and artwork that fill the many rooms of this epic home make up one of the finest private collections of art and furniture in the UK.
The rooms of Waddesdon Manor were furnished by Baron Ferdinand using his large collection of French 18th century ceramics, furniture and tapestries. In the dining room hang 18th century Beauvais tapestries based on the work of Boucher, in the Red Drawing Room sits a chest by the royal cabinet maker Riesener and in Baron Ferdinand’s Room sits a desk once owned by Beaumarchais and a Riesener secretaire.
The Baron’s collection of paintings is no less impressive with portraits by Reynolds and Gainsborough hanging in the Red Drawing Room and work by Dutch masters Hooch, Ruisdael, Cuyp and Dou hanging in the west wing’s morning room. Upstairs, Waddesdon Manor has been partly restored with half of the space fitted as bedrooms and half of the space converted to exhibition spaces. The bedrooms are exquisitely furnished and feature pieces by Meissen and Boucher
In 1898, on Baron Ferdinand Rothschild’s death, Waddesdon Manor passed to his sister Alice de Rothschild who had lived with him there for most of her life. After Alice’s death in 1922 the manor passed to her nephew James A. Rothschild, a Liberal MP, who added objects and paintings from his late father Baron Edmond James de Rothschild of Paris’s collection to the already stunning collection at Waddesdon.
On Baron Ferdinand’s death Waddesdon’s collection of Renaissance works and arms were bequeathed to the British Museum and on James Rothschild’s dead in 1957, he bequeathed the Waddesdon Manor itself and its complete contents to the National Trust to be preserved and conserved for posterity. The property is currently tenanted by the 4th Lord Rothschild who, in an unprecendented arrangement, was given authority by the National Trust to run Waddesdon Manor as a semi-independent operation. In 2012 Waddesdon Manor was given the honour of being designated one of the sites for Jubilee Woodlands commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.
Why Waddesdon Manor Famous Today?
The collection held within the walls of Waddesdon Manor is internationally recognised as one of the most exemplary collections of 18th century French furnishings and 18th and 19th century paintings by Flemish, Dutch and French artists in the world. The magnificent houses built by the Rothschilds and their painstakingly preserved collections became known by their own descriptor ‘gout Rothschild’, and Waddesdon Manor is one of the best examples of that splendour. Waddesdon Manor featured in the international press in 2003 when The Johnson Gang stole approximately 100 pieces of French snuff boxes and other jewelled objects from the collection that are believed to have belonged to, among others, Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour.
TV and Films Featuring Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor has been featured in the following films and TV shows.
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) Film
- The Mummy Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) Film
- The Queen (2006) Film
- Downton Abbey (2011) TV Series
- Mrs James de Rothschild (1979) Rothschilds at Waddesdon Manor
- Michael Hall and John Bigelow Taylor (2002) Waddesdon Manor: The Heritage of a Rothschild House
Waddesdon Manor is ran by the National Trust and is open to visitors from Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00am to 5.00pm. Both the house and gardens are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. A ticket to visit the house and gardens costs £18 for adults and £9 for children, under 5s and National Trust members can visit for free. See the website www.Waddesdon.org.uk for more information.
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