Top 10 Unbelievable Facts About Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor is a country house in the village of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire, England. The house looks like a French chateau dropped down in the middle of an English landscape. It is owned by National Trust and managed by the Rothschild Foundation.
Located in the Aylesbury Vale, 6.6 miles (10.6 km) west of Aylesbury, Waddesdon Manor won England’s Large Visitor Attraction of the Year award in 2017. It is one of the National Trust’s most visited properties, with over 463,000 visitors in 2019 alone.
Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild bought the Waddesdon agricultural estate from John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, with his inheritance money in 1874. This duke was the paternal grandfather of Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II.
Without a house, park, or garden, the construction of Waddesdon was a massive project that took 15 years to complete. The Baron used it mainly as a weekend residence for entertaining his guests and to house his collection of arts and antiquities.
Successive generations of the Rothschild family have enhanced and nurtured the estate expanding it from the original 2,700 acres in 1874 to 6,000 acres in 2011, by purchasing the adjoining lands.
Here are 10 facts about Waddesdon Manor.
1. Transplanted Trees
When Baron Ferdinand purchased the Waddesdon Estate from the Duke, the land was a bare hill known as Lodge Hill. The Duke had cut down all the trees and sold off the timber.
The summit of the hill was leveled and large trees were transplanted from nearby estates to create an instant garden.
Deciduous trees were selected because of their form, flowering, and an array of autumnal colours. Conifers were selected for their evergreen nature, cones, and berries.
Though most of the trees are not of a great age, they are now mature enough to create the desired effect in the Waddesdon landscape.
2. The Parterre
The parterre at Waddesdon is a French garden with a formal arrangement of plants or flowers contained by neat pathways and low-clipped hedges. It was designed to be seen from a bird’s eye view, either from the raised terrace, or the main reception rooms or bedrooms on the south side of the Manor.
It has a fountain at the center and carpet beds on all sides with complex flower designs creating a living mosaic. Interestingly, the bedding displays are changed twice annually, each time with a different colour theme.
It takes about two months to completely change over the bedding displays but the carpet beds are assembled in a single day because they are grown in plant tiles.
3. The Beautiful Lawns
There are over 100 acres of lawns and grassland at the Waddesdon Manor. This is equivalent to 100 football pitches the size of Wembley Stadium. These beautifully manicured lawns are in tip-top condition.
A lot of work goes into keeping the lawns looking good and the grass as healthy as possible. Apart from mowing, there is feeding, aerating, and scarifying of the lawns to reduce surface compaction, especially during the spring season which is very important.
4. The Aviary
The aviary at Waddesdon is filled with colorful and exotic birds. Many of the species kept here are rare and endangered like the beautiful Palawan Peacock Pheasants and the songful Rothschild’s Mynahs. The beautifully restored aviary now takes part in important conservation breeding projects for endangered species.
There is also an aviary garden with its colorful Victorian appearance with raised ribbon bedding plants of a single colour and texture. They are planted in tiers or ribbons one above the other.
5. Art in the Gardens
The Manor has many 18-century sculptures, carpet bedding displays, and contemporary art pieces in the gardens. The Baron used these fine statues and fountains to create points of interest in the gardens and for beautiful views.
During the winter months, the outdoor Italian, French, and Dutch sculptures and vases are warped up in special coats to protect them from getting damaged.
There are more modern artworks on the grounds at Windmill Hill and Flint House.
6. Musical Elephant
One of the highlights of the Baron’s collection is the extraordinary musical automaton elephant. It is sumptuously decorated with gilt-bronze and imitation jewels, including mother-of-pearl, glass, and polychrome paint and paste.
The piece dates back to 1774 and was made by the French clockmaker H Martinet. It plays four tunes and when wound, it moves its trunk, ears, eyes, and tail. It was one of his most admired treasures.
7. The House Interior
Waddesdon Manor was an extraordinary house created for entertaining the political and social elite. It was also meant as a setting for the Baron’s art collections.
The largely French astonishing pieces that include paintings and decorative arts, plus the gilded interiors are among the rarest and most valuable in the world. These works were acquired for their exquisite quality and fine provenance, particularly those belonging to French royalty of the Ancient Régime.
Subsequent members of the family added noted collections of paintings, enamel, arms and armor, maiolica, carpets, manuscripts, prints, and drawings. The magnificent building looks like a slice of France set down in an English setting.
8. The Stables Courtyard
The Stables building was designed by the same architect who designed the Manor but this time in a French 17th-century style. The complex now houses a café, shop, and the Coach House gallery where visitors can enjoy a changing program of special exhibitions.
The courtyard is also the focus of many family visits with its access to the Woodland Playground and family-friendly eatery that serves cakes, brownies, bars, cookies, and cupcakes.
9. Wine Cellar
The wine cellars hold the world’s largest private collection of Rothschild wines, the renowned wine estate in Bordeaux that’s been producing some of the world’s priciest reds since the 19th century.
At Waddesdon, more than 15,000 bottles, some of which are around 150 years old, are stored in the underground vaults. There is also a winery that produces wine with grapes from the manor’s vineyard. They host a wine tasting and sell their wine at discounted prices to their guests.
In Ferdinand’s time, there was a large kitchen garden and extensive glasshouses growing fruit and flowers, including orchids.
Dairy farming was also practiced and guests used to be taken to the ornamental Dairy to taste the milk from cows who wore Meissen porcelain name tags.
There is a nursery bed in the shape of a 3D bird. Also present is a unique water garden that has elaborate rock formations, waterfalls, cascades, and paths, plus a lake with rare waterfowl.
Waddesdon Manor is enjoyable with lots of space to explore and historic art collections and furniture to see.