Posted 14 March 2018

Archive Behind the scenes

Secrets of Waddesdon

With the second series of Channel 5's Secrets of the National Trust we wanted to delve into our history and stories from the archives and reveal some of Waddesdon's own secrets.

House party guests seated outside the manor
House party at Waddesdon, July 1894

Saturday to Monday parties

Ferdinand de Rothchild, who built Waddesdon in the 1880s to house his collections of furniture, paintings and decorative arts, would host Saturday to Monday parties that ranged between 14 and 20 people (not including staff) although on occasions there could be even more!

Baron Ferdinand in Fancy Dress circa 1880
Baron Ferdinand in Fancy Dress circa 1880

Dressing up

Ferdinand a shy person in many ways, but this photograph of him, dressed as a Renaissance prince for a fancy dress ball thrown by the Prince of Wales, shows a more extrovert side of him. And it was an appropriate costume for someone so passionate about 16th century works of art.

Find out more about Ferdinand>

Dining Room

Mind your manners

Did you know that the hedge of roses and carnations down the centre of the table in the Dining Room was to encourage conversation with people on either side of you rather than across the table? This was a late 19th century dining convention.

Queen Victoria planting a tree at Waddesdon
Queen Victoria’s visit to Waddesdon on 14 May 1890 and showing the Queen planting a tree, The Illustrated London News.

A Royal visit

When Queen Victoria came to stay at Waddesdon, as is tradition with special guests, she planted a tree in the gardens as captured in the Illustrated London News from 14 May 1890.

Red Drawing Room
Red Drawing Room

Virtually Waddesdon

Step in and explore the Red Drawing Room as if one of Ferdinand’s high society guests with our 360 virtual tour. Zoom in on the wonderful portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds.

Take a tour of the Red Drawing Room >

Miss Alice de Rothschild
Ferdinand’s sister, Miss Alice

Miss Alice’s rules

Miss Alice, Ferdinand’s sister, was a collector in her own right and her housekeeping regime, known as ‘Miss Alice’s Rules’ have become the basis of National Trust conservation practises.

Read more about Miss Alice >

Winston Churchill at his desk
Winston Churchill as Prime Minister

Secret smoke

When Winston Churchll came to stay, he would request to stay in the Portico Bedroom as he could step onto the porch roof to smoke a cigar. He was otherwise banned by Alice smoking anywhere else!

Discover what Churchill wrote to James de Rothschild>

The Red Book

From Mound to Manor

The Red Book is one of the key sources we have relating to Waddesdon during Baron Ferdinand’s time. It is an album of photographs along with a short essay by Ferdinand on the process of creating Waddesdon.

Find out more about the Red Book>