I recently went on a work visit to Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury in Hertfordshire, and thought I’d share about it here.
The main part of the Manor was built in 1883 by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, as his country weekend retreat. The house was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1959 and has been open to visitors ever since.
The house is incredibly ornate and is stuffed to the gills with the Rothchilds’ possessions: there are over 25,000 objects in the house’s collection and the majority of them are on display. It is in fact quite an overwhelming place to wander around – you could easily spend the entire day there and still not see everything there is to see.
When the Baron died he bequeathed a collection of nearly 300 precious art objects from Renaissance Europe to the British Museum. This collection is in the process of being moved to a new gallery in the Museum which was the reason for our visit. It will be worth dropping in to see the new display if you are in London from next February.
There was a temporary exhibition of linen folding by contemporary artist John Sallas. Linen folding is an almost-forgotten, spectacular art form that was extremely popular in German-speaking lands in the 17th century. It was used to make table decorations of great intricacy and beauty, both for display and for practical use. Different patterns were used to represent different families – you can see some of them in the image below. In the centre of the table is an incredible 1.5m-high fountain flanked by heraldic beasts, a 3m long snake and many animals, vegetables and architectural features – all original designs that would have graced the tables of courts and those of high society across Europe.
The gardens are lovely – many people go just to visit them (they are free, unlike the house). This ornate aviary was built in the late 19th century and is full of beautiful and unusual birds – including Rothschild’s Lobe-Billed Bird of Paradise.
Waddesdon is just under an hour away from London by train and is well worth a visit. If you go, don’t miss the incredible 8-foot topiary birds!