In 1874 Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) bought “a lovely tract of land, [with] beautiful soil...and very pretty scenery” in the Vale of Aylesbury. Inspired by the châteaux of the Valois, Ferdinand employed Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur to build him his own French-style country house, with towers and external staircases such as he had seen while in Touraine. The house was opened in 1884. Many of the furnishings and pictures were from 18th century Parisian interiors, but Ferdinand mingled these successfully with English portraits and Dutch masters. Queen Victoria who spent a day at Waddesdon in 1890 was delighted with the house.
The grounds at Waddesdon
The grounds at Waddesdon were landscaped to create parkland and gardens with plenty of colourful trees and shrubs. The transformation of the former wilderness involved piping Chiltern Hills water seven miles from Aylesbury and excavation and levelling on a huge scale to provide a firm foundation on sandy soil. Planting of the parterres was a particularly delcate enterprise as Ferdinand used only annuals, which were replantred two or three times during the season with potted flowers grown under glass.
After his death in 1898, the estate passed to Ferdinand’s sister Alice and then in 1922 to her nephew, James, who bequeathed the house to the National Trust in 1957. The house and gardens are open to the public.