Dear mummy, before you were admitted to hospital we visited a wonderful place called Waddesdon Manor. As National Trust members we’ve exhausted all the properties around our local area so decided to venture further afield and into a different county. It’s a good 1hr 30mins drive from Hampshire and by the time we arrive we’re desperate to vacate the car and go and explore.
Waddesdon Manor is a country house in the village of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire, England. The house was built-in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898) as a weekend residence for grand entertaining. The last member of the Rothschild family to own Waddesdon was James de Rothschild (1878–1957). He bequeathed the house and its contents to the National Trust. It is one of the National Trust’s most visited properties and the jewel in their portfolio crown, with around 335,000 visitors annually. A lot of money goes into this property and you can tell.
We’ve visited a Rothschild estate before in Hampshire called Exbury Gardens and loved the grounds. At Waddesdon Manor we weren’t disappointed as their grounds are immaculate and there is a steady stream of guest exhibitions, art commissions and special events supported and organised by the Rothschild Foundation (who manage Waddesdon).
We drive through big impressive iron gates which lead to a modern carpark at the base of a large hill. The carpark has an ‘airport’ feel to it with plugs for electric cars, a little shuttle bus terminal and ticket desk. We board the free bus for the short ride up to the manor house, zig-zagging up the hill, past amazing views of the estate watching people dotted around like ants on the rolling landscape.
The bus drops us off at the North Fountain and give us an amazing view of the manor in all it’s glory. The bus driver was super friendly and helpful by storing my scooter at the front of the bus and helping us off with it. We walk up The Avenue a long stretch of drive with manicured beds either side, Waddesdon dominate the grounds, just like something out of a Disney movie. The honey coloured turrets spike the grey sky and its a very impressive sight. It’s just like a fairytale castle and you can tell the architecture has been based on French chateaus. Waddesdon was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1870s in the style of a French renaissance chateau as a setting for his extraordinary art collections, which included furniture owned by Marie Antoinette and a carpet from Versailles.
The carved stonework is just gorgeous, the way the spiral stairs curl around the outside of the turrets and the topiary is immaculate, even the guttering is a thing of beauty. I especially loved the shaped topiary crisscrossing on the outside of the building hanging on the stone work like glue. One thing my folks spotted was the amount of security around the place, discreetly positioned security cameras and even though the house was closed, volunteers watched the doors to the proper and the large wine vault. We find out from staff that Waddesdon Manor underwent a major restoration from 1990 to 1997, and the visitor attractions were enhanced. In 2003, in a burglary committed by the Johnson Gang, approximately 100 priceless gold snuff boxes and other items were stolen from the collection prompting the installation of new security measures.
Multiple films have been shot at Waddesdon Manor, including Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). On the day we visit the house is closed for the winter season, however we still managed to have a fantastic time. Visiting the natural play park, the impressive wine cellers and seeing the largest gingerbread house in the UK commissioned from the Biscuiteers.
Waddesdon Manor play area
There is a lovely natural play area with wooden forts and dens. Layered on different tiers as we descend down to the stable yard area where the cafe is and the exhibition area. There are slides, zip wires and swings. Parents can sit of wooden benches and watch the world go by. We spend a long time playing in this area and my folks tear me away from it by tempting me with hot chocolate and sandwiches. We enjoyed our lunch in the Stables café and like that there is outdoor seating with blankets and heating in the courtyard too. After lunch we head to see the exhibition on show.
Waddesdon Manor in gingerbread form
Down in the Stables Gallery, The Biscuiteers, Notting Hill-based icing artists, had been busy creating a two-metre long gingerbread model of Waddesdon itself. We were hit by a wave of sweet, gingerbread scent as soon as we entered the gallery.
We were impressed that Waddesdon Manor was recreated entirely from gingerbread! Created by the Biscuiteers Baking Company Ltd, the model is over two metres in size and recreates the rich details of some of Waddesdon’s most beautiful rooms, including it’s paintings, furniture and ceramics, modelled in icing. *Sadly since this post was written it’s no longer on display*
The “biscuit architects” took 500 hours to make it and it features furnished miniature rooms and used 216 kilos of icing, 240 eggs, 216kg of icing and 30kg of sugar. The model even includes miniature porcelain plates and chandeliers. We were mesmerised by it and spent ages gasping at the detail.
Afterwards we briefly explored the Wine Cellars at Waddesdon which were created in 1994 to celebrate the association of the Rothschild family with some of the finest wines in the world for more than 100 years. The vaults at Waddesdon hold 15,000 bottles of historic wines, dating back to 1868. They are modelled on the private cellars at Château Lafite Rothschild and are the largest private collection of Rothschild wine in the world. Over the years a collection of works of art related to wine has been assembled, such as the figure of Bacchus, god of wine, by John Cheere from about 1740.
If you like buildings, history, countryside, gardens, afternoon tea or simply awesome playgrounds, you will love Waddesdon Manor and we can’t wait to return for one of their events.
Admission: Adult admission for the grounds and the house is £20, for the ground only, £10. National Trust members are admitted free but must book for the house tour. Visit the Waddesdon Manor website for directions and information about other holiday events and shopping.
Love Bella x