Waddesdon Manor

Nominated by: Hannah Rothschild

I have chosen Waddesdon Manor, built by my forebear Ferdinand de Rothschild in the late 19th century and still cared for by my family on behalf of the National Trust. It was built as an enormous three dimensional calling card by an insecure Austrian born Jew trying to make a name and home for himself and his young pregnant wife in England. Tragically, Evelina and their baby died during childbirth and Waddesdon became a substitute family. For him it was a refuge and a palace to house his memories and a unique collection of paintings, furniture and objets d’art.

Perched on a hilltop in the Vale of Aylesbury, the Baron created an idiosyncratic version of a French Renaissance Chateau. He called it Waddesdon Manor and more than one hundred years later, its turrets and spires; cupolas and finials; tall chimneys and glinting metalwork still dominate the surrounding landscape.

The first-time, unsuspecting visitor winds their way up a magnificent drive lined with giant pines and cedar trees. On the ascent, there are only tantalising glimpses of the Manor’s roof-scape and the Victorian gardens, one of the finest in Britain with its parterre, seasonal displays and statuary. Then suddenly, a fountain of dancing horses heralds the final arrival; suddenly the visitor is greeted by Manor’s glorious honey-coloured 300-foot facade.

My ancestors were amongst the greatest collectors of the 19th century and the Manor is the most perfect surviving example of this tradition. I could chose many single objects for this selection- Waddesdon houses many of the finest examples of French decorative arts, furniture, marquetry, Sevres porcelain, English Portraits and Dutch Old Masters. Perhaps because there are so many treasures, I’ve cheated and am taking the whole place along with its amazing contents.

Three subsequent generations of Rothschilds have added to Ferdinand’s vision.  Today’s visitor will see works by Joshua Reynolds, Antoine Watteau and Francesco Guardi as well as paintings by Lucien Freud and Leon Bakst; the floors are covered with Savonnerie carpets and walls are hung with tapestries from the royal Gobelins workshops set off by a contemporary chandelier by Ingo Maurer.

Baron Ferdinand entertained Kings and Queens, politicians and philanthropists, writers and world leaders. His guests included Queen Victoria, Edward VIIth, The Shah of Persia; Winston Churchill; Anthony Trollope and others. But this extraordinary palace, built to entertain a few now welcomes nearly five hundred thousand visitors. Nothing gives me and my family more pleasure

Waddesdon Manor was nominated by Hannah Rothschild.