The landscape of England was once resplendent with large country houses. So successfully did a concentration of Rothschild family members acquire properties and settle in the Vale of Aylesbury that in the nineteenth century the area acquired the soubriquet ‘Rothschildshire’.
A grand house that stills stands is Halton in Buckinghamshire. The existing house was built after Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918) inherited the estate in 1879. On 19 January 1884, the house, designed by William Cubitt & Co., was opened in the presence of the Prince of Wales. The Rothschild Archive has a sumptuous blue leather album containing exquisitely detailed photographs of the exterior and interior of Halton when it was new.
Halton was based loosely on a French Renaissance château, but boasted various modern features including a hot-air heating system, and electric lighting, being one of the first large houses in England to have been specifically designed to be lit by electricity. Halton's ornate skyline consisted of steep French pavilion roofs, pinnacles, chimney stacks, and a domed Winter Garden. In 1914 Halton was taken over for use as an army base, and later in the war was used by the newly formed Royal Flying Corps. It was subsequently sold to the War office by Alfred’s nephew, Lionel, and was later occupied by the Royal Air Force.
The house was not to everyone’s taste at the time. Judged by Lady Frances Balfour as ‘terribly vulgar’, to Constance Battersea (1843-1931) (née Rothschild, Alfred's cousin) it was nevetheless Alfred’s ‘beauteous home on earth’, while for Country Life it combined ‘classical grace and modern elegance’.
RAL reference: RAL 000/887