The summer has rolled around so with RIAT round the corner, the wife and I headed down towards Swindon.
On our way, we decided (as we often do) to stop off at a National Trust site and get the most out of our membership. Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire was our choice.
Set in the village of Waddesdon, the story of the manor begins with Ferdinand de Rothschild.
Born in 1839, Ferdinand came from a powerful banking family, who provided services for monarchs and governments. They were known for providing funding for Wellington’s army in the build-up to the Battle of Waterloo. Mayer Amschel who started the business came from a merchant family, but build his business until it was spread across Europe. Eventually, they changed their name to de Rothschild, after the name of their family home in the 16th century.
Ferdinand himself saw lots of Europe growing up. He was born in Paris, was raised in Frankfurt and Vienna and fell in love with England when he was visiting his family’s English home. After his mother’s death in 1859, he decided to stay in England and married his wife Evalina in 1865. Sadly, Evalina died the following year in childbirth. He would never marry again.
Throughout his life, Ferdinand was known as being a collector of curiosities and would travel to Europe to collect arts and pieces to adorn his and his families homes. He was fortunate that in the 1870s and 1880s, many aristocratic families were suffering from the agricultural depression and as a result were selling off family treasures.
When his father died in 1874, he sold his shares to his business partners and bought the Waddesdon estate. There was no house on the estate, as it was a farming estate so Ferdinand set about building a palatial mansion to house himself and his growing collection. Construction began in 1877, the Bachelors Wing was completed by 1880 and the manor complete by 1883.
Ferdinand died in 1898, and the manor went down the family chain being restored and renovated whenever needed. It was opened to the public in the 1950s after the death of James de Rothschild, who donated it to the National Trust to protect it.
Now Grade 1 listed, Waddesdon Manor was built in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château. The building was design and built by Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur. Before starting the project Destailleur had adapted the Château de Mouchy near Beauvais. A turreted 16th-century castle, it was this building that would inspire the design for Waddesdon.
Waddesdon was always kept up to date. It was built with a central heating system, and then fully refitted with electricity in 1889.
The manor now stands as a museum and tribute to the life of Ferdinand, and to that of his sister Alice who lived with him later.
As with a lot of places like this, to protect the collection the lights are low, so I really struggled to get anything “good” on the day. I hope however that what I have got gives you an idea of the place and compels you to go and visit if you are in the area.
As I noted at the beginning, this wasn’t one of my best outings with the camera. However, this place is stunning. Beautiful architecture packed with art, tapestries, furniture and curiosities from all over Renaissance Europe.
The National Trust are doing a great job of looking after it, and I urge you to go check it out.
As always, Thanks for looking.