Thursday, 23 June 2011

Chilling Out at Cliveden House

Yesterday as I sat updating this blog I heard music - and through the window I saw ...
video
Please turn up your sound and play the video - it really is lovely to watch and to listen to ...
After lunch, when the sky had brightened we decided to walk up that hill and have a look at the big house that is Cliveden House ...
 ... walking up the steep steps of the chalk hills ...
 ... and the spectacular view looking south-west ...
 ... and down to the River Thames below ...
 ...looking up to the top of the hill which is managed by the National Trust ...
 ... and the first foxgloves I've seen this year
 George and Molly playing tag ...
 ... in Elm Field ...
 ... where I presume horses were kept in the stables ...
 ... along with the horse trough.
 A narrowboat passing far below on the river ...
 But this was as close as we could get to the house; we couldn't go into the formal gardens because Molly (Patterdale Terrier) was with us and I couldn't visit the house because it only opens on Sunday and Thursday afternoons!

The History of Cliveden
The first house was built in 1666 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham. A notorious rake, schemer and wit, he created Cliveden as a hunting lodge where he could entertain his friends and mistress. Since then it has twice been destroyed by fire, only to emerge, phoenix-like, more stunning than before. The house has played host to virtually every British Monarch since George I and has been home to three Dukes, an Earl and Frederick Prince of Wales.

The 2nd Duke of Sutherland

Queen Victoria, a frequent guest, was not amused in 1893 when the house was bought by William Waldorf Astor, America’s richest citizen. When he gave it to his son and daughter-in-law (Nancy, Lady Astor) in 1906 Cliveden became the hub of a hectic social whirl where guests included everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Winston Churchill, and President Roosevelt to George Bernard Shaw.



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Nancy, Lady Astor

As soon as Nancy moved in to the House, she was a figure of great interest. Among her earliest guests were the Prince of Wales (the future George V) and Princess Marie of Romania. But it was after the First World War that Cliveden really came into its own as centre of social and political influence, when Nancy decided to enter Parliament. She made history when she became the first ever woman MP at Westminster in 1919.



From then on, Cliveden was a social whirl of important entertaining, mixed with life as a family home for Nancy’s five children. When Waldorf and Nancy travelled abroad, they were treated like royalty, particularly in the United States, where they were regarded as unofficial ambassadors from Britain.

The Cliveden Visitors Book is a ‘Who’s Who’ of the period. Writer and playwright George Bernard Shaw made the first of many visits in 1926. Winston Churchill became an occasional guest, as did Charlie Chaplin, aviator Amy Johnson, King George, Queen Mary and the young Joyce Grenfell, Nancy’s niece, who spent several idyllic Christmases at the House.

Perhaps the earliest sign of what was eventually to become of Cliveden came in 1942, when Waldorf’s concerns over the cost of the House’s upkeep prompted him to give the entire estate to the National Trust. The arrangement provided for the Astor family to continue living at Cliveden for as long as they wished to remain.

Like for many country homeowners, the post-war years for the Astors were tough, not helped by a distancing of relations between Nancy and Waldorf. Waldorf himself died in August 1952, while Nancy outlived him by another 12 years. The death of her eldest son, Bill, the third Viscount Astor, two years after hers, spelt the end for the 73-year long reign of the Astors at Cliveden.
(http://www.clivedenhouse.co.uk/default.asp?Page=nancy_lady_astor)

Cliveden House is now a stately home open by timed tickets on Sunday and Thursday afternoons and a private hotel owned by the Von Essen Hotel group

Harold Macmillan, another frequent guest, when told that the house was eventually to become a hotel, remarked “My dear boy, it always has been.” The tradition of impeccable hospitality and extravagant entertainment continues to make any stay at Cliveden 
(http://www.clivedenhouse.co.uk/default.asp?Page=history experience of a lifetime)

The inner circle was once used as a table, it is 16 foot 6 inches in diameter and is a slice of a Giant Redwood Tree which was brought to Cliveden from California by William Waldorf Astor in 1897 to win a bet that it could seat 40 people for diner.  It is believed that the Astor's used it as a picnic table in the garden.
Gosh this tree trunk is so white - beautiful!
 The Water Garden ...
 ... the only bit of the formal garden that we could see without going in ...
 ... I wish you could smell the heady scent from this avenue of lime trees ....
... and back down the steep path to the river side.
A bit muddy and slippey in places, but well worth the effort; pity that the house wasn't open as I would have made the effort to visit on a dry day!

3 comments:

  1. It looks marvellous. Really must have a look some day....Lord knows when, though! Maybe best approached from the river, too. One thing's for sure: the other half sure know how to live, methinks!

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  2. It really is Iain - well worth a visit - and yes we love the life we live!

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  3. Sorry if the picture of Nancy Aster is missing - sometimes when I look at the blog it's there and sometimes it's not - c'est la vie!

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