Waddesdon Manor 3395

Aylesbury, England, Buckinghamshire, Aylesbury Vale

Brief Description

Waddesdon Manor has late-19th-century formal and informal gardens surrounded by exotic woodland. The gardens occupy an area of about 48 hectares, and lie within a park and agricultural estate which at its most extensive covered 1300 hectares. The gardens are owned by The National Trust and are open to the public. The remainder of the estate is owned by The Waddesdon Estate and is private.

History

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild bought the Waddesdon estate from the Duke of Marlborough in 1874. The park layout and some of the terraces were designed by Parisian landscape architect Elie Lainé.

Visitor Facilities

The gardens are open throughout the year, from Wednesday to Sunday between March and December and weekends only from January to March. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/place-pages/349/pages/opening-times-calendar

Terrain

The house is sited on Lodge Hill above the surrounding parkland which covers undulating land, rising up to the south towards Waddesdon Hill.

Detailed Description

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

A late 19th century country house, surrounded by contemporary formal and informal gardens, and an extensive park, laid out by Elie Lainé, incorporating the site of a 17th/18th century park and the remains of the formal garden of Winchendon House.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Waddesdon Manor park lies south-west of, and adjacent to, the village of Waddesdon, 9km north-west of Aylesbury, in the Vale of Aylesbury. The c 480ha site is bounded to the west by agricultural land, to the east by Waddesdon Hill lane (leading from the A41 to Upper Winchendon) and the adjacent Eythrope estate, and to the north by Waddesdon village and the A41 Aylesbury to Bicester road. The east boundary along Waddesdon Hill lane is largely planted with a belt of trees, as is the north boundary where it runs adjacent to the A41. The house is sited on Lodge Hill above the surrounding parkland which covers undulating land, rising up to the south towards Waddesdon Hill.

The setting is largely agricultural, with the ornamental parkland of Eythrope to the east, Waddesdon village with its many late C19 estate buildings to the north, and Westcott military establishment to the west. Long views extend from various parts of Lodge Hill, including west towards Wotton Underwood (qv) and the Vale beyond, and east to Aylesbury and the distant Chiltern Hills. Within the wider setting, Waddesdon Manor is one of seven Rothschild country estates within a 10km radius of Aylesbury bought, and usually furnished with a new house and often new grounds, during the second half of the C19.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Several drives cross the park, entering off the A41 or Waddesdon Hill. The main entrance is at the north-east corner of the park, c 2km east of the house, off the A41 at its junction with Waddesdon Hill, giving access from Aylesbury and London past the Grand Lodge (Destailleur c 1880, listed grade II), a classical brick pavilion in French style, with a wrought-iron screen. Two subsidiary drives enter off the A41 in the village, and one opposite the entrance to the Eythrope estate on Waddesdon Hill. The drives run through the park, arriving at a roundabout 250m north-west of, and on an axis with the main front of, the house. At the centre of the roundabout is a circular pool containing a fountain of Triton with Nereids (early C18, listed grade II), surrounded at the edge of the circle by six terms (early(mid C18, listed grade II). From here a broad gravel drive runs, flanked by lawns and two subordinate avenues, to the gravel sweep along the north-west front of the house, focused on the grand central porte-cochère.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Waddesdon Manor (listed grade I), built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild by G-H Destailleur, 1874-89, lies towards the north end of the park, sited on the broad, artificially levelled plateau of Lodge Hill. It is of two storeys, built of Bath stone in the style of a C16 French chateau, with towers, turrets and dormers. At the north-east end a service wing is attached and a later addition on the south-west end. A central porte-cochère stands on the north-west, entrance front, and along the south-east, garden front, several doors open out onto the gravel terrace above the parterre, with grand views across the park to Aylesbury in the distance.

The stable courtyard (Destailleur c 1884, listed grade II) lies 200m north-east of the house, close to the foot of Lodge Hill; also built in French style, this has roughcast elevations and red-brick and stone dressings. The half-timbered Dairy courtyard (W F Taylor c 1880s, listed grade II) lying 500m north-east of the house, with its associated informal garden with ponds and extensive Pulham rockwork (restored 1990s), occupies level ground further from the foot of the Hill. The Home Farm (Taylor c 1880s, listed grade II) lies on the northern boundary adjacent to Waddesdon village street, 700m north-east of the house, and consists of a rectangular group of buildings surrounding a courtyard, in similar style to the Dairy, with a central, circular, thatched horse shelter.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

NOTE This entry is a summary. Because of the size and complexity of the gardens and pleasure grounds, the standard Register entry format would not convey an adequate description. The user is advised to consult the references given below for more detailed accounts. Many Listed Buildings exist within the site, not all of which have been here referred to. Descriptions of these are to be found in the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest produced by the Department of National Heritage.

The garden contains two formal features aligned with the house. To the north-west the formal entrance drive, avenues and lawns are surrounded by ornamental woodland and, to the west, extensive Pulham rockwork sited on a mound probably created during the levelling of the hilltop. On the south-east, garden front of the house a formal parterre incorporating extensive seasonal bedding displays overlooks the park. At its centre is a fountain of Pluto and Proserpine (early C18, listed grade II), the whole being surrounded by retaining walls and balustrades, with broad stone steps (late C19, listed grade II) down to the parterre from the top terrace by the house, and further steps from the parterre down to a small south terrace (late C19, listed grade II) directly overlooking the park as it sweeps down to the south-east. A further formal garden, laid out by Lanning Roper in 1964, lies in front of the aviary (1889, listed grade II), 200m north-west of the house, screened from the entrance avenues by the Pulham rockwork and enclosed by clipped hedges. These features, sited on the plateau, are skirted by ornamental, exotic woodland planting on the hillside below, underplanted in places by ornamental shrubs.

PARK

The majority of the park lies east and south-east of the house, extending for c 2.5km to Waddesdon Hill lane. Much of the area remains as open pasture, planted with many clumps and single trees framing views, and several areas of woodland and belts on the east and north boundaries. The remains of the village of Wormstone lie towards the north-east corner of the park, consisting largely of Wormstone House and farm, surrounded by woodland including many horse chestnuts. An estate stud farm with associated fields, built in the early C20, lies 2km south-east of the Manor house on the east boundary.

The site of Winchendon House lies at the southern tip of the park, 2.5km south-east of the Manor house. This probably C17 building was largely demolished in 1758, the only remaining part being the service wing, known as The Wilderness (listed grade II). This fragment, surrounded by earthworks, comprises the remains of a notable C17/early C18 formal garden created by the Wharton family and depicted at its zenith in a painting of the early C18 (Harris 1979), possibly with Lodge Hill in the background. The remains of a double avenue survive in the south corner of the park, this being aligned at its south end on the site of the front of the demolished house, and to the north on the summit of Lodge Hill, that is, the garden front of Waddesdon Manor. A survey of 1776 (Fellows) shows the avenue linking Winchendon House with a rectangular plantation on the southern slopes of Lodge Hill, now largely gone (1997).

KITCHEN GARDEN

The kitchen gardens, with a very extensive area of glasshouses, lay west of the Dairy and were largely demolished in the 1960s. A brick-walled area remains north of the site of the main kitchen gardens; currently used as a commercial nursery and garden centre, this was previously a walled kitchen garden and frame yard (Colson Stone 1992), with the Garden Cottage to the west, probably designed by Taylor.

REFERENCES

Country Life, 4 (20 August 1898), pp 208-11; 12 (20 December 1902), p 808

J Harris, The Artist and the Country House (1979), p 140, col plates XII, XIII

J Garden History 8, (1988), pp 228-9, pl XIII

Waddesdon Parkland Restoration Plan, (Colson Stone Partnership 1992)

B Elliott, Waddesdon Manor, the Garden (1994)

N Pevsner and E Williamson, The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire (1994), pp 708-712

Maps

Fellows, Survey, 1776 (private collection)

Tithe map for Waddesdon parish, 1859 (Buckinghamshire Record Office)

Auction sale map, 1874 (Buckinghamshire Record Office)

Lodge Hill estate, plan and section for drainage of carriage drives and slopes, late 19th century (Buckinghamshire Record Office)

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1885

2nd edition published 1900

3rd edition published 1922

OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1881-1882

2nd edition published 1899

Description written: 1997

Amended: April 1999

Edited: September 2000

Features
  • Mansion (featured building)
  • Description: The French architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur was commissioned to build a mansion in the style of a 16th-century French chateau.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Lawn, Carpet Bed, Mixed Border, Parterre, Topiary, Garden Terrace, Fountain, Planter, Rockery
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

The gardens are open throughout the year, from Wednesday to Sunday between March and December and weekends only from January to March. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/place-pages/349/pages/opening-times-calendar

Directions

Six miles north west of Aylesbury on the A41.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Waddesdon
History

Detailed History

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild planned his house on essentially a bare hill, known as Lodge Hill. A letter to his uncle dated 2 February 1875 describes how pleased he was with the progress made in the plantations. Early photographs show young trees already in place while the carriage drive was still being laid out and the foundations for the house were barely dug. In the layout of the grounds, Ferdinand was aided by the French landscape architect Elie Lainé, who was ‘bidden to make designs for the terraces, the principal roads and plantations'. Lainé was based in Paris and may have been introduced to Ferdinand by the French architect of the house, Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur.

In his ‘Red Book’ (1897), Ferdinand, feeling the need to explain his choice of a foreign landscape gardener, relates how he first asked ‘Mr Thomas’ for his assistance. As Brent Elliott has pointed out in his guidebook to the gardens at Waddesdon, this is most likely Mr William Broderick Thomas, a well-known landscape gardener who was working for the Prince of Wales at Sandringham at the time. Thomas declined however, ‘for reasons he did not deign to indulge’, but probably because of his commitment to other projects. Unfortunately, no designs by Elie Lainé for the layout of the grounds at Waddesdon appear to have survived. His involvement went beyond the mere supply of designs though, as he stayed on site, supervising with Mr George Alexander, an engineer from London, the laying out of the roads. Early account books show payments to Lainé in February of 1876, 1877 and 1878 (Bellaigue). During this period Lainé and Destailleur were also working together at Vaux-le-Vicomte in France. A later design by Destailleur for the lowest terrace at Waddesdon Manor, shows indeed some similarities with his work at Vaux-le-Vicomte (Pons). This design was not carried out. In his ‘Red Book’ Ferdinand made it clear, that although Lainé was involved with ‘the chief outlines of the park’, he himself was responsible for much of the ornamental plantings: ‘the pleasure grounds and gardens were laid out by my bailiff [George Sims] and gardener [Arthur Bradshaw] according to my notions and under my superintendence’.

As his father had done at Schillersdorf, and as his relative and friend Lord Rosebery (who was married to Ferdinand’s cousin, Hannah) did at Mentmore, Ferdinand transplanted large trees, using Percheron mares. ‘My trees came – some of them – from Wooburn [sic] Abbey…and some from Claydon House – Sir Harry Verney’s place. Some from Halton; some from Drayton Beauchamp – wherever I could get them. Yes, they turned out as we wished…with the exception of the oak. The oaks have given trouble; but the chestnuts have done remarkably well’. (The Woman at Home)

In some of his obituaries, it is suggested that when it came to the planting of trees, Ferdinand lost patience at times, wanting instant effect when he could not have it. One report, dating from 1881, tells of the avenue to the north of the house being planted with lime (Bucks Advertiser, 23 July 1881). Whether these were transplants that proved unsuccessful, or whether this is a case of the author of the article incorrectly identifying the trees, but the avenue was eventually made up of oak trees. Apart from tree planting, there were extensive tracts of shrub planting. The account books show particularly large orders from the nurseries of Anthony Waterer and H. Lane & Sons, suggesting that they supplied most of the trees and shrubs. Brent Elliott describes how much planting was carried out in accordance with the colour theories of the nurseryman William Paul. Contemporary reports in the horticultural press describe indeed large plantings of single varieties of different colours adjoining one another. One source describes the ‘plantations of spruce and firs, of golden yews and elders, of variegated maples and laurels…disposed between the hilltop and the village' (The Woman at Home). Very few, if any, of these plants though, appear to have come from the nursery of William Paul however, as the accounts show only two relatively insignificant payments to Paul in 1896. There are two minor archive sources that list specific plants grown at the time. One source, possibly an old plant order of 1884, lists a number of small shrubs. The other source is the order book of Waterer’s nursery of 1897 and 1898. The orders include large numbers of genista, spirea, yew, box, dogwood, privet, buckthorn and quickthorn, as well as 500 ‘heath of sorts’ and small numbers of individual trees such as acers, lime and cupressus.

The terraces on the south front of the house were in place by 1881, although the 1st edition OS map of 1880 shows little detail. As mentioned before, Lainé was asked to design the terrace but it seems likely that the idea for such a feature had been put forward by the architect Destailleur. In 1887 Destailleur presented more detailed plans for the area now known as Frog Fountain steps but these plans were rejected probably because they were too elaborate. Other plans by Destailleur show an architectural arrangement of steps (‘cascading’ down the slope) for the area to the immediate west of the house. This would have afforded a good view to the area to the west of the house but, again, this design was not carried out (Archives Nationales).

Reports of Ferdinand’s annual ‘Treat’, which appeared in the Bucks. Advertiser & Aylesbury News from 1880 onwards, provide a glimpse of the development of the grounds at Waddesdon. The 23 July 1881 account, which still refers to the property as Lodge Hill, reads: 'The slope on the south side of the mansion is formed into terraces, and several fine statues lend embellishment to the scene. Though the exterior of the fabric has now been completed, only a portion is at present rendered habitable, and it was in this part that the Baron had entertained the Prince of Wales and a select company the previous day. Even the windows have not yet been added to the great majority of the apartments, but temporary boarding cover the apertures. The grounds in the vicinity are laid out in pleasant walks and shrubberies; on the east is a well-formed lawn, on which the Prince and the Baron’s other guests spent the Sunday afternoon, and a little to the east is a large ice-house, the approach to which, arched over with huge and rough blocks of stone, presents a somewhat romantic air. Wandering northward from here the visitor reaches a spot whence the view is no less expansive and grand then that seen from the south.'

The mention of the icehouse is slightly puzzling. Today there is indeed an icehouse to the north east of the manor but the approach to it is not, as described by the article, accompanied by dramatic rock work. However, such an approach does exist, to some extent, as an entrance to the ‘Cavern’ located to the north west of the manor, which houses a large water tank. This is part of the extensive rockworks found throughout the gardens, constructed by the firm of James Pulham. Payments to the firm of James Pulham date from 1884 until 1892, totalling approximately £2700. After that date payments for rockery work are listed under ‘Harpham’, who was paid £1,020, between 1895 and 1898. Similarly, rockery work in the glasshouse was attributed, in 1886, to the ‘now celebrated Clapham’. (Gardeners’ Chronicle, 19 June 1886)

The firm of Pulham & Son was well known during the 19th century. As Brent Elliott has pointed out, their work at Waddesdon must be among their most extensive, being on an even larger scale than their hitherto best-known rock work for the Prince of Wales at Sandringham.One of the Pulham hallmarks was the so-called Pulhamite, an artificial composite, made to resemble real rock. However, at Waddesdon Manor real rock was mostly used, including limestone. Natural rock would have been easy to come by, since large quantities of it were excavated during the levelling of the hilltop in preparation for the building of the house. In his ‘Red Book’ Ferdinand also made reference to the ‘deep gash’ in the side of Lodge Hill when he first bought the property in 1874. This gash, he remarked, the result of limestone quarrying, proved ‘most useful in the construction of rockeries, and has since been converted into a basin and fountain’. The exact location of the latter is not known. It has been suggested that the remains of this quarry are on the site of the present ‘Tulip Patch’, with its lower water feature possibly being the basin and fountain referred to by Ferdinand. To add to the confusion, there is actually a ‘Gravel Pit’ indicated on the 1st edition OS map, just north east of the circular fountain on the North Avenue.Further rockwork is to be found in the Aviary. The 1883 report of the ‘Baron’s Treat’, published in the Bucks Advertiser, quotes from a poem that was written on the occasion: The grotto and the aviary they could view,And see the parrots of every hue –Splendid birds in green and blue – By the kindness of the Baron.

The grotto, in this case, might be a reference to the rockwork in the centre of the aviary. The present aviary, recently restored to its full splendour, was reputedly finished in 1889 but this 1883 reference suggests that it might have been completed some years earlier. The designer is not known but, as has been pointed out by Brent Elliott and others, the idea for an aviary must have come from the one at Grüneburg where Ferdinand spent his youth. A large quantity of Pulham rockwork is also to be found in the garden near the Dairy. The Dairy garden was laid out by 1885, with adjoining lakes created for ornamental wildfowl. These features are an echo of the dairy and lakes at Neuhof.By 1887 the garden was virtually complete. In August of that year, the Bucks Advertiser reported on the annual ‘Baron’s Treat’: 'The best attraction … in the estimated opinion of many present, was the ornamental portion of the Park, which was as usual thrown open. The fountains were in play, and, together with the beautiful parterres of flowers around them, were gazed at by continuous streams of visitors; the aviary too attracted notice; and walks among the shrubberies, which, with advancing age, are steadily progressing in picturesque beauty, were also enjoyed.' The same year, 1887, also saw a new head gardener, John Jaques, replacing Arthur Bradshaw. Although most of the features of the garden were already in place by then, Jaques would have been involved with laying out the rose garden, which was said to have been one of the last additions to the garden before Ferdinand’s death in 1898 (Jewish Chronicle).

No mansion was complete without an extensive range of glasshouses and Waddesdon was no exception. In 1882 a contract was signed between Ferdinand and George William Watkins Berry for ‘the erection of glass houses & other work at Lodge Hill’. From 1885 onwards there are also huge payments to the firm of glasshouse suppliers, R. Halliday & Co, from Middleton near Manchester. Earlier payments (1883-1885), similarly huge, are listed under the name of ‘Holliday’ but this is almost certainly a misspelling of Halliday, as actual designs for the glasshouse range by Halliday date from 1884 and possibly earlier. The 2nd edition OS map of 1898 gives some idea of the glasshouse range, which included a large palm house. Situated between the stables and the dairy, on the lower slope to the north east of the manor, the glasshouse complex, known as ‘Top Glass’, adjoined a layout of formal flowerbeds. It survived until the 1970s when it became structurally unsound and was pulled down.

Some of the glasshouses were given over to specific groups of plants such as anthurium, orchids and Malmaison carnations. The latter were also known as ‘Rothschild carnations’, on account of their popularity with members of the Rothschild family and their being grown on such a large scale by them (Country Life). Other glasshouses were devoted solely to orchids. Like so many of his relatives, and as was fashionable at the time, Ferdinand had a strong interest in this species. In a letter to his aunt Charlotte he explained how his liking for them was based on their intricacies as much as their beauty. The five glasshouses at Waddesdon Manor, filled, in 1885, with choice species and varieties of orchids were said to be only the beginning of Ferdinand’s hobby.

Sources

Archives Nationales, Paris, ref. GHD 41 and 47. See also Anthony Blunt ‘Destailleur at Waddesdon’ in Apollo (June 1977).

Bellaigue, Geoffrey de. Notes (Waddesdon Accounts held at Rothschild Archives at Waddesdon Manor ref. acc. no. 3593)

Banbury Guardian, Obituary (24 Dec 1898)

Bucks Advertiser & Aylesbury News (23 July 1881)

Bucks. Advertiser & Aylesbury News (21 July 1883)

Bucks. Advertiser & Aylesbury News (6 Aug 1887)

Country Life (20 Aug 1898) p208

Elliott, Brent, Waddesdon Manor. The Garden (National Trust, 1994)

Gardeners’ Chronicle (27 June 1885) p821

Gardeners’ Chronicle vol 25 n.s. (19 June 1886)

Gardeners’ Chronicle (2 July 1887)

Gardeners’ Chronicle (24 Dec 1898) pp457-8

Gardeners’ Chronicle (24 Dec 1898) p458

Gardening World (9 July 1887) pp707-8

Halliday, R., ‘Ground Plan and Hothouses etc. Waddesdon Manor’ (c.1880s; private collection; copy at Waddesdon Manor ref. acc.70)

Halliday, R., ‘Fruithouses Waddesdon Manor’ (c.1880s; private collection; copy at Waddesdon Manor ref. acc. 75)

Halliday, R., ‘Glass corridor etc. For Baron F. de Rothschild’ (1884; private collection; copy at Waddesdon Manor ref. acc. 76)

Jewish Chronicle (3 Aug 1900) pp18-19

Plant list (1884), at Waddesdon Manor ref. acc.403

Midland Daily Telegraph Coventry, Obituary (19 Dec 1898)

Pons, Bruno Waddesdon Manor. Architecture and Panelling (London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd, 1996)

Prevost-Marcilhacy, Pauline, Les Rothschild bâtisseurs et mécènes (Paris: Flammarion, 1995).

Rothschild, Ferdinand de, Letter to his uncle Lionel Rothschild (2 Feb 1875), at Rothschild Archives ref. XI/109/118/RfamC

Rothschild, Ferdinand de, Letter to his aunt Charlotte, at Rothschild Archives ref. 000/26/RFamC8 – n.d.

Rothschild, Ferdinand de, ‘Red Book’ (1897), at Waddesdon Manor ref. acc. 54 and acc. 938 (transcript); also accessible on the Rothschild Research Forum website.

Rothschild, Ferdinand de, ‘Reminiscences’, 1897 (Waddesdon Archives ref. acc. 177.1997).

Rothschild, Miriam et al. The Rothschild Gardens (London: Gaia Books Ltd, 1996) p176

‘Two Rothschild Homes’ in The Woman at Home (undated - possibly late 1890s) p110. Copy at Waddesdon Archives, ref. acc. 223.

Waterer's Nursery, Order book 1897-8, Royal Horticultural Society Lindley Library.

Detailed history amended 21/11/2013

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild bought the Waddesdon estate from the Duke of Marlborough in 1874. Having levelled the top of Lodge Hill, the Baron employed the French architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur to build a mansion in the style of a 16th century French chateau.The Parisian landscape architect Elie Lainé 'was bidden to make designs for the terraces, the principal roads and plantations' (Ferdinand de Rothschild, 'Red Book', 1897), and produced a design based on 17th-century French layouts, modified to the late 19th-century fashion. The surrounding farmland became parkland.

The Baron filled his house with 18th-century pictures and furniture (much of French origin) and Parisian panelling. Similarly, he furnished the gardens with much 17th- and 18th-century French and Italian statuary and other ornaments. Baron Ferdinand died in 1898, leaving Waddesdon to his sister, Miss Alice, who had bought the adjacent estate, Eythrope, in 1875, developing its grounds in tandem with those at Waddesdon. Miss Alice died in 1922, leaving Waddesdon to her nephew, James de Rothschild, who bequeathed the house and gardens to the National Trust in the late 1950s.

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  • Sophieke Piebenga, DPhil Dip Hort Kew

  • Jill Sinclair