Waddesdon Manor

From Academic Kids

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Waddesdon Manor. The north entrance facade.
Waddesdon Manor is a country house in the village of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire, England. The house was built in the style of a French chateau between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898). The Baron, a member of the Rothschild banking dynasty, chose as his architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur. Today Waddesdon is owned by the National Trust, but in recent years, following an extensive restoration it been administered by a Rothschild family trust overseen by Jacob Rothschild, 4th Lord Rothschild.

The house was built on a barren hilltop overlooking Waddesdon village. The Baron wanted a house in the style of the great chateaux of the Loire Valley. Destailleur was already experienced in working in this style, having overseen restoration of many chateaux in that region, in particular the Chateau de Mouchy. Through Destailleur's vision Waddesdon embodied an eclectic style based on the chateaux so admired by his patron, Baron Ferdinand. The towers at Waddesdon were based on those of the Chateau de Maintenon, and the twin staircase towers, on the north facade, were inspired by the famed staircase at Blois; however following the theme of unparalleled luxury at Waddesdon, those at Waddesdon were glazed, unlike the staircase at Blois, and far more ornate.

The structural design of Waddesdon however was not all retrospective, hidden from view were the most modern innovations of the late 19th century including a steel frame, which took the strain of walls on the upper floors which consequently permitted their layout to differ completely from the lower floors. The house also had hot and cold running water in its bathrooms, central heating, and an electric bell system to summon the numerous servants.

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Waddesdon Manor. The towers were inspired by those at the Chateau de Maintenon

Once his chateau was complete, Baron Ferdinand installed his extensive collections of French 18th century tapestries, boiseries, furniture and ceramics, English and Dutch paintings and Renaissance works of art. Extensive landscaping was carried out and the gardens enhanced with statuary, pavilions and an aviary. The grounds were laid out by the French landscape architect Lainé. An attempt was made to transplant fully grown trees by chloroforming their roots, to limit the shock, while this novel idea was unsuccessful, many very large trees were transplanted, causing the grounds to be such a wonder of their day that in 1890 Queen Victoria invited herself to view them. The Queen was however more enthused by the electric light in the house than the wonders of the park. She is reported to have spent ten minutes switching a newly electrified 18th century chandelier on and off fascinated by the invention she had not seen before.

When he died in 1898, the house passed to his sister Alice de Rothschild who further developed the collections. Baron Ferdinand's collection of Renaissance works, and a collection of arms both bequeathed to the British Museum as "The Waddesdon Bequest".

Following Alice de Rothschild's death, in 1922 the property and collections passed to her great-nephew James A. de Rothschild of the French branch of the family, he further enriched it with objects from the collections of his late father Baron Edmond James de Rothschild of Paris.

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Waddesdon Manor. One of the twin staircase towers modelled on the great spiral staircase of the Chateau de Blois

When James de Rothschild died in 1957, he bequeathed Waddesdon Manor, 120 acres (0.5 km²) of grounds and its contents to the National Trust, to be preserved for posterity.

A nearby ancillary property, The Pavilion at Eythrope, had been constructed for Alice de Rothschild by the architect George Devey. This became the home of James de Rothschild's widow, the former Dorothy Pinto, universally known as "Mrs James"; she took a very keen interest in Waddesdon for the remainder of her long life. Eythrope and the rest of the Waddesdon estate remain the property of Mrs James de Rothschild's heir the 4th Lord Rothschild.

Jacob Rothschild, 4th Lord Rothschild, has recently been a major benefactor of Waddesdon Manor through the private family charitable trust, he has overseen the major restoration, and introduced new collections thus enhancing the visitor attractions. In an unprecedented arrangement, he has been given authority by the National Trust to run Waddesdon Manor as a semi-independent operation.

In a serious burglary on 10 June 2003, approximately 100 French gold snuff boxes and jewelled trifles were stolen from the collection. None were recovered, fragments were found amid melted gold in the burnt wreckage of a motor vehicle close to the Manor, These priceless artefacts many encrusted with diamonds had belonged to among others Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour. They were irreplaceable.

Several films have been shot here, including the Indian film Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.

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