History of the Manor Kitchen online exhibition

When building Waddesdon between 1877 and 1883, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild wanted to ensure his new home provided every comfort and convenience, and Waddesdon quickly developed a reputation for serving the finest food, all prepared in the Manor kitchens.

History of the Manor Kitchen online exhibition Go to... Serving the manor Produce and utensils Top-of-the-range tech Image gallery Top

Then and now

The main kitchen formed part of a wider complex of domestic areas, including a larder, confectionery room, stillroom and scullery. In the basement below was a bake house, butcher’s shop, coal cellar, knife room and cellars for beer and wine.

When the house was bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957 many service areas were adapted as workspaces, and the Manor kitchen was converted to a tea room.

Serving the manor

Stories from the kitchens...


Picturing the past

This photograph shows Waddesdon’s kitchen staff in around 1891.

Find out more about the people in this photo>


Chef to the Rothschilds

Maurice Tissot met James in 1928, and was invited to begin work as chef to James and Dorothy de Rothschild.

Learn more about Maurice Tissot>


Food fit for a queen

On 13 May 1890 Queen Victoria paid a much anticipated visit to Waddesdon.

Find out more about the food she enjoyed on her visit >


Home grown enterprise

Much of the food prepared in the kitchens was grown and produced on the surrounding estate. Vegetables were cultivated at the bottom of the hill and bought up to the Manor daily. A vast array of heated glasshouses (now demolished) provided out-of-season produce.

Milk was provided by a herd of short-horn cows at the nearby dairy while other groceries were obtained locally in the village.

Find out more about the Waddesdon’s lost glasshouses>


Batterie de cuisine

The range of copper pans and utensils lining the shelves form part of the original batterie de cuisine used in the kitchens in Ferdinand and Alice’s time. The term ‘battery’ originally referred to the process of hammering wares from sheet metal.

Learn more about the pots and pans in Waddesdon’s kitchen>

Changing times

Inheriting the Manor in 1922 following the Great War, James and Dorothy witnessed the changing landscape of domestic service...

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Click the picture to find out more about this modern range

Top-of-the-range technology

When James and Dorothy inherited Waddesdon in 1922 they set about updating the old-fashioned kitchens. Improvements included modern refrigeration and this up-to-the-minute coal fired range. Both principal ranges have central fire boxes, either side of which are stone-lined ovens. Kitchen boys were responsible for fuelling the fires with coal stored in the basement below.

Next to the ovens are hot cupboards for keeping food warm before it passed through the serving hatch on the left. The top surface of the range contains adjustable hot plates, the tall vertical oven provided a steady temperature for baking and the hood above removed heat and odours.

Coffee for one

The term ‘espresso’ was coined in the early 20th century and evokes the speed of this new technology. Before the invention of the espresso maker, coffee was produced through filtration – a slow and often messy process.

This appliance consists of a boiler and electrical heating element. The steam generated was used to extract fresh coffee under pressure. The size of this unit suited individual servings. The stylish design and use of modern materials, including polished chrome, speak of modernity.

Coffee machine on display in the Manor Kitchen © (c) Waddesdon, A Rothschild House & Gardens

Of all the changes in daily living which have come about in my life-time I think the greatest may be in the cooking and preparation of food. When I compare what was done in the Waddesdon kitchen when I first knew it with the simplicity of heating up a pre-cooked meal from a freezer, it hardly seems possible that both methods are equally successful in warding off hunger – if not of satisfying taste.

The only thing which seems to have remained constant is the preoccupation about getting fat….

Dorothy de Rothschild