Posted 5 December 2023


Highlights from Waddesdon’s Collection Christmas 2023

This year the house features decorations inspired by three classic tales, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) by Lewis Carroll, The Snow Queen (1844) by Hans Christian Andersen and Peter and Wendy (1911) by J M Barrie. Many of the displays are inspired by their historic setting and Waddesdon's remarkable collection, take a look at some of the objects that you'll spot as you walk around the house...

Elephant Automaton, (1768-1772)

The White Rabbit’s pocket watch is ticking… “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!”. One of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s most admired clockwork objects is this magnificent elephant automaton. It was made in around 1770 by Hubert Martinet, a French craftsman working in London, who signed his name in imitation jewels on the trunk. With the turn of two keys the elephant comes to life, the triumphal Emperor and musicians move to and fro, and the base plays a musical tune. Recently cleaned and conserved, it looks newly resplendent.


Meissen porcelain Turkey, (1732-1734)

No Christmas feast is complete without a turkey. Waddesdon’s own Meissen porcelain designed by Johann Joachim Kändler turkey lives in the Breakfast Room. It was commissioned by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, in 1730 for for a never-completed display of nearly 600 large-scale porcelain animals and birds in the Japanese Palace in Dresden.


Copper Pots and Jelly Moulds (1833-1922)

The copper pots and jelly moulds stacked on the breakfast table form part of the original batterie de cuisine used in the kitchens in Ferdinand and Alice de Rothschild’s time. The term ‘battery’ originally referred to the process of hammering wares from sheets of metal.


Wine Chariots, (1839)

In the magical Blue Dining Room are two silver wine chariots modelled in the form of a Roman chariot drawn by putti (male children, usually nude, and sometimes winged). This pair was made in England in 1839 by the silversmiths Mortimer and Hunt.  Also don’t miss the wine itself,  bottles of Château Mouton which are placed around the room with labels designed by leading contemporary artists, such as Andy Warhol and David Hockney.


Coffer (mid-17th century)

In the Billiard Room this 17th-century coffer simmers with the riches of the sea. It is covered with mother-of-pearl, the iridescent nacre that makes the inner surface of molluscs, including nautilus and oyster shells. In nature, mother-of-pearl is not flat, so it has to be cut into dozens of little squares in order to cover the surfaces of this box.



Dagger, c 1800-1830

Upon the billiard table a 17th-century dagger is displayed, part of the arms and armour collection which owes much to the taste and collecting of Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922), who bought may of the objects. Alice formed the collection with advice from Sir Guy Laking, Keeper of the Royal Armories. It contains mainly swords, daggers, firearms and powder flasks of 16th and 17th centuries.


Peter Pan Book & Dorothy Sewing case

The Smoking room has been reimagined as The Darling’s Night Nursery. On display is a pin cushion which was probably made by, or for, Dorothy de Rothschild (1895-1988) who, with her husband James (1878-1957), inherited Waddesdon in 1922. It contains several badges for organisations that she was involved with including Buckinghamshire County Bowls Association, Buckinghamshire Youth Service and the Women’s Institute. It is obviously well-used and loved.

Also on display is a copy of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), an earlier work by Barrie, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, which also features Peter as the main character. It is inscribed ‘To dear Jimmy’ (James de Rothschild) and dated February 1913.

Christmas at Waddesdon Wed 22 Nov – Mon 1 Jan 2024, Wed-Sun plus Mon 1 Jan. Christmas Fair 22 Nov – 17 Dec. Grounds 12-7pm (last entry 6pm), House 12.30-7pm (last entry 6.30pm)

To book your tickets for Christmas at Waddesdon visit our website on: Christmas at Waddesdon – Waddesdon Manor