Welcome toThe Rothschild Archive'swebsite

Sources for business history

Sources for art history: Catalogue of the pictures of Alfred de Rothschild 1901

Sources for yachting history: Plans for Nathaniel von Rothschild's yacht Veglia 1905

Sources for natural history: Walter 2nd Lord Rothschild and his zebra carriage: c.1910

Sources for global financial history: Map of lines of the Brazil Railway Company: c.1920

Sources for business history: index cards to bank files

Sources for social history: Rothschild Hospital Paris: 1920s

Sources for business history: detail of a Rothschild bond coupon

Sources for architectural history: Halton House: 1890s

Sources for the history of travel: Lionel de Rothschild's tours of Spain: 1909

Sources for local history: Tring Park: c.1900

Sources for Royal history: shooting party with Edward Prince of Wales: 1893

Sources for political history: Lionel de Rothschild: first Jewish MP: 1858

Sources for sporting history: St Amant winner of the Derby: 1904

Sources for local history: gardeners at Aston Clinton: 1899

Sources for Rothschild family history: Lionel de Rothschild's yacht Rhodora: 1927

Sources for London history: entrance to New Court: 1965

Sources for design history: plans for Lionel de Rothschild's Rolls-Royce: 1930

Sources for business history: Rothschild gold bars produced by the Royal Mint Refinery: 1930s

Sources for business history: letters of August Belmont Rothschild Agent in New York: 1860s

Exhibition - Rothschild Gardens

3: Plant hunters and conservationists

A scientific endeavour

The creation of beautiful and exotic gardens was a serious undertaking. Charles Rothschild (1877-1923) considered himself a naturalist, rather than a horticulturist, and made many collecting expeditions around the world in pursuit of seeds and plants.

In 1918 Lionel de Rothschild bought the Exbury Estate on The Solent, near Southampton, with a view to creating an ambitious garden.  To obtain the rare and specialised plants he wanted to use, Lionel contributed financial sponsorship to the expeditions of some of the most famous plant hunters of the day. He was especially interested in rhododendrons and azaleas, for which Exbury has become famous. Many of these plants came from the wildest parts of China, Tibet, Burma, Assam and the Himalayas.  Seeds and specimens were sent back to Exbury for cultivation, and the plants were then used to produce new hybrids.

Rothschilds and the plant hunters

Lionel supported Frank Kingdon Ward (1885-1958) on many of his expeditions during which Kingdon Ward found many notable specimens and suffered many accidents, including being impaled on a bamboo spike, falling off a cliff and having his tent crushed by a tree in a storm. Lionel also helped fund the plant hunter Sandy Wollaston (1875-1930) on his Everest expedition in 1921, which was organised by the Royal Geographical Society.  Arthur K Bulley (1861-1942), a wealthy Liverpool cotton broker, was a regular correspondent of Lionel’s and another horticulturalist who supported the plant hunters’ expeditions. 

George Forrest (1873-1932) was another plant hunter supported by Lionel. He qualified as a pharmacist, which introduced him to botany. A small legacy gave him the opportunity to travel. On his return to Scotland he began to work at the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh and eventually came to the attention of Bulley who was looking for someone to lead an expedition in the mountains of south-west China in 1904. All his companions were murdered by fierce local nationalists, and he alone escaped by sheer good fortune. This did not extinguish his appetite for exploring and thereafter he visited Yunnan many times until his sudden death in 1932.

Charles and Miriam Rothschild: conservationists and plant pioneers

According to family tradition, Charles Rothschild (1877-1923), son of Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild of Tring fell in love with the Northamptonshire countryside where he was searching for butterflies. He built a mansion at Ashton Wold where he engaged 14 gardeners. Charles considered himself a naturalist, rather than a horticulturist, and made many collecting expeditions around the world in pursuit of seeds and plants. A pioneer of environmental conservation, he formed the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves in 1912. Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005) inherited the house after her parents’ deaths, and over the next 30 years transformed the gardens into a haven for wild flowers.

Rothschild Species

Many species and cultivars were named after members of the Rothschild family. At least seven species of orchids were named in honour of Rothschild gardeners. The Royal Horticultural Society's Dictionary of Gardening (2nd Edition) lists the following:

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum (Stein, 1892): an extremely rare orchid, endemic to the lower slopes of Mount Kinabalu in Borneo. The flowers are large with glossy green leaves and yellow and ivory white petals marked with maroon.

Ancistrochilus rothschildianus (O'Brien 1907): a West African epiphyte collected for Walter Rothschild in Nigeria. It has unusually large, pink and white flowers with a brown blotch on the lip.

Augraecum rothschildianus (O'Brien 1903): a fragrant epihyte discovered in 1878 in the environs of Victoria Nyanza by Major H.B. Rattray of the King's African Rifles.

Cirrhopetalum rothschildianum (O'Brien 1895): a spectacular orchid, bright purple with yellow markings, originally collected in the hills of Darjeeling for Walter Rothschild.

Catasetum rothschilii (Rolfe, 1922): collected for Walter Rothschild, in whose honour it was named. The flowers are light green with the inside of the lip buff yellow.

Cattleya rothschildiana: a natural hybrid between Laelia lobata and Cattleya intermedia.

Vanda Rothschildiana: a beautiful orchid with violet-blue flowers, chequered with darker markings, originally produced by Chassaing, the head-gardener at Ferrieres, in 1931 and named in honour of Walter, 2nd Lord Rothschild.

Rosa rothtschildii (Druce 1913): a rose discovered by Clarence Druce at Ashton Wold, while visiting Charles; the two men enjoyed various collecting expeditions together.

Iris rothschildii (Von Degen, 1936): a natural hybrid between Iris illyrica and Iris variegata.

Rumex rothschildia (Aaronsohn and Evanari, 1940): named in honour of Baron Edmond de Rothschild who founded numerous agricultural settlements in Israel, it is a rare dock found on the sand dunes along the coastline in Israel. 

Gloriosa rothschildiana (O'Brien 1903): a brilliant scarlet Flame lily named in honour of Walter Rothschild.

Anthurium 'Rothschildianum' (1876): a variety of A. scherzerianum from Costa Rica. 

Rhododendron rothschildii (Davidian 1972): named after Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) of Exbury. Found by Rock in Yunnan in 1929, in the wild the plant grows about 20 feet high but in cultivation it is a nine foot shrub. 

Rothschild Cultivars

Roses: many roses carry the Rothschild name - 'Baron' and 'Baroness Rothschild', 'Baronne Rothschild', 'Baron Edmond' and 'Baron Adolph'. The 'Baroness Rothschild' rose named after Beatrice de Rothschild (1864-1934) is a large hybrid tea rose with soft clear rose pink petals with a soft silky texture, and is highly scented.

Cymbidiums: among top quality orchids are 'Rozsika', 'Nathaniel', and 'Mrs Lionel de Rothschild'.

Rhododendrons: At least twenty are named after Lionel de Rothschild's relatives. After his death a garden hybrid which he raised was named 'Lionel's Triumph' by his son Edmund de Rothschild (1916-2009).

Other cultivars named after the family include Cotoneaster 'Rothschildianus', and C. 'Exburiensis'. There is also a violet named in honour of Baroness Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922), and a similar violet variety named 'Baron Louis de Rothschild'. A camellia was named in honour of Charlotte de Rothschild (b.1955), a nerine for Kate de Rothschild (b.1949), a pelargonium for Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (1878-1942), and a begonia and carnation for Mrs Leopold de Rothschild (1862-1937).

For a detailed account of the history of selected Rothschild gardens and estates, see Rothschild Gardens by Miriam Rothschild, Kate Garton and Lionel de Rothschild (London: Gaia Books, 1996).

Letter of introduction from the Royal Exotic Nursery for John Veitch to travel in Spain to collect plants

Letter of introduction from the Royal Exotic Nursery for John Veitch to travel in Spain to collect plants