Visit to Waddesdon Manor Aylesbury, Bucks – Wednesday 12th June 2024

Forty one members of the Society enjoyed an outing to Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury,  the family seat of the  English branch of the Rothschild family. Built between 1874-1885 and designed by the French architect G.H Destailleur in the Neo Classical style, it is very reminiscent of a French palace. Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898)  created it as a country weekend retreat to entertain his friends and family and to show case his collection of decorative arts, English portraits and Old Master paintings as he was an avid collector. Passing through subsequent generations who added to the collection, the house and its contents were finally bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957 and is currently managed by them and one of the descendants who chairs the Rothschild trust. It is now considered to be one of the richest and most important collections in Europe.

Divided into three groups, we were given a guided tour of the ground floor with its beautifully furnished rooms by very knowledgeable guides who really brought the rooms and their past occupants alive for us. The beautiful dining room table can be extended to seat 24 people and was laid with a superb china set designed by the Russian Count  Razumovsky with ornithologically accurate birds, which forms part of a current exhibition in the house and grounds called Flights of Fancy (22ndMay – 27th October)




Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild was also an avid book collector, particularly of 17th and 18th century books with gold tooled fine bindings. Much of his collection came from France and the French Royal family, as well as two desks from Louis XVI and Louis XVIII respectively. He particularly liked to withdraw to the added West wing morning room to read and then escape to his living quarters upstairs via a secret stairway.

We explored the first floor with all its bedrooms on our own, particularly its state bedroom, so called after Queen Victoria came to stay. She was particularly impressed by the electricity that had been installed in Waddesdon. Followed by the Bachelor Wing with its billiard room,

smoking room (very opulent with the most beautiful collection of ceramics, crystal and jewels) and finally the Treasury on the second floor where there was also a small exhibition of paintings by the Italian artist Guernico (1591-1666) including their latest acquisition of Guernico’s depiction of “Moses”. In the basement was the cellar with collections of wine for the family from the French Rothschild vineyards and a tasting room.

In the afternoon, we were free to wander around the superb ‘parterre’ and explore the extensive gardens with the aviary, rose garden and artificial grotto created by James Pulham. Already considered to be one of the most important gardens during the Victorian period, these have been beautifully restored and maintained today.

We all came away quite exhausted but very content by this extensive and rewarding visit and happily collapsed into the coach for our return journey. Thank you  to Wendy  Allen and Gay McCart for this excellent choice.

Liz Beecheno