At Waddesdon Manor we take the stairs to the first floor bedrooms, the dark wooden paneling, arrangement of furniture and embroidered textiles give a sense of luxury and comfort. Throughout the house there are many intricately designed clocks from tall pedestal rococo style, to the dainty clock with gilt bronze branches and porcelain flowers that I’m now admiring in the State bedroom.
The green boudoir has a certain charm and feels private, intimate. Louis XV chests of drawers and console tables are adorned with vases in bold blues and trimmed in gilded patterns.
The first floor is partly dedicated to the Rothschild collections on display ranging from 18th century antiquarian books, illustrated prints and albums filled with textiles. A chunky gold necklace embellished with baguette cut emeralds and diamonds is lit up in a glass cabinet; I smile and stare as it sparkles and shimmers in all of its beauty.
Although restoration, conservation and exhibitions are ongoing, Waddesdon Manor doesn’t feel like a storehouse for relics, but a vibrant living place packed with enthusiastic visitors from all over the world. As I walk back downstairs tapestries and grand oil paintings of Venice cover entire walls, and there is never a moment when we are not spoilt with some artwork or design.
A small crowd has gathered around an extraordinary piece of decorative clockwork in the form of a musical elephant automaton. It dates from 1774, was made in London by a French clockmaker and plays four tunes. It’s eyes roll, ears flap, trunk lifts and scenes with gilded figures and flowers encrusted with diamonds revolve at its glittering base; such abundant detailing and workmanship leaves us all mesmerised.
I sigh with relief as I step out onto the gravel path take in the fresh air and look out at the simplicity of the English Landscape. I feel small and slight as I walk along the path surrounded by spacious lawns on either side. The vast garden is outstretched before us and we escape into the warmth of a summer’s day.
We wander passed the manicured parterre and such beautiful planting with stunning bold colour schemes. The tranquility of the gardens is a comfort. I pause to smell the fresh greenery; the hedges hide the Manor and for a moment I could be lost in any garden in France or Italy. I can hear a cascading fountain in the distance, look up at the statue of a beautiful female Roman citizen and pass by various mythological sculptures.
We turn a corner and arrive at an ornate Aviary inspired by 18th century pavilions and to this day filled with exotic birds. We discover that this was an adored place of Ferdinand De Rothschild. The shrubbery is dense but we manage to get a glimpse of red tipped feathers and can hear all sorts of cawing and birdsong.
We say goodbye to Waddesdon for now, but hope to return later in the year, as I hear that the manor is full of festive sparkle and is beautifully illuminated during the dark winter months.
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