Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire, England
When the Aston Clinton estate in Buckinghamshire came up for sale in July 1849 the Rothschild brothers discussed a possible investment purchase, agreeing to pay no more than £26,000, as "it is not like a fancy place". Sir Anthony de Rothschild finally bought the property in 1851 when its former owner Lord Lake died.
Aston Clinton mansion
The large mansion was situated to the south-east of the village of Aston Clinton, and from 1854, Anthony and Louise began to make alterations to the house. The architect George Henry Stokes, assistant of Joseph Paxton (who had designed the great Rothschild house Mentmore Towers for Anthony’s brother Mayer Rothschild) and the builder George Myers produced a neo-Classical design at the foot of the Chilterns, with a park and gardens which Anthony greatly enhanced with conifers and shrubs. Extensions to the existing house including a ‘Billiard Room building’, dining room, offices and a conservatory were made. George Devey took over from Stokes from 1864 to 1877, designing the park gates and various cottages on the estate. Even after these building works, the house was not ostentatious, and was described by Lord Rosebery as "the only Rothschild mansion that could be called a gentleman’s house."
Photographs of the house show a large neo-Georgian Italianate-style house with verandahs, a large porte-cochère and an elegant conservatory. By the time the Rothschilds sold the estate in 1923 the house had grown from its humble origins to become a classical mansion with seven reception rooms, billiard room, ball room, thirteen principal bed and dressing rooms, seventeen secondary and servants’ bedrooms, four bath rooms and complete domestic offices. There was stabling for 32 horses and two lodges had been built.
Lady Louise de Rothschild was initially disappointed with the property, regarding it as rather too small. "Aston Clinton is not the house I dreamt of", she wrote in her diaries. Nevertheless, she and her daughters Constance and Annie came to love the house and the family enjoyed a pleasant life in the country. The house and park were the setting for many entertainments, both formal and intimate. Anthony was a keen countryman and he became owner of a number of successful racehorses including Carnelion and Coomassie, and Aston Clinton hosted shooting parties at which the Prince of Wales was a frequent guest, while distinguished artists, such as Hallé and Joachim, were invited to perform at the family’s parties.
The Rothschilds at Aston Clinton
At Aston Clinton, Anthony and Louise were noted for their enlightened views of the responsibilities towards their employees and their tenants. The whole family took a close interest in the development of the community, and the Rothschilds transformed the estate and village. A large number of workers' cottages were built and The Anthony Hall in the village was erected by Louise in 1884 in memory of her husband. Both daughters inherited their parents’ sense of moral responsibility and devoted their time to education issues and other social welfare causes. Aston Clinton Infants’ School was built by Anthony as a sixteenth birthday present for Constance at her request.
After Anthony’s death in 1876, Louise and her daughter Constance continued to live in the mansion. Constance is said to have been responsible for alterationsand extensions to the house and gardens, including a re-designed stable block and water features including a 'Fairy Glen'. Upon her Louise's death in 1910, Aston Clinton reverted to the Rothschild Estate and the three sons of Anthony’s brother Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) jointly inherited the interest. Constance and Annie continued to use Aston Clinton as a holiday home and kept the estate going until the First World War, when the house was used by the Commanding Officer of the Twenty First Yorkshire Division, then encamped on the nearby Rothschild estate at Halton.
The estate is sold
By 1923, Lionel’s three sons had died, and the estate passed to Charles Rothschild, (1877-1923). When Charles died, his executors, concerned about the rising cost of the upkeep of Aston Clinton, put the estate on the market. The whole estate was disposed of in sales in 1923 and 1924, and the house was sold to a Dr Crawford who, from 1924 to 1930 ran Aston Clinton School, a prep school at which the young Evelyn Waugh taught. The house reopened briefly as the Aston Clinton Country Club in 1931.
The estate again came to the market in 1932, when it was divided into lots and the ‘freehold estate known as Aston Clinton Park’ was auctioned. Land from the estate was purchased by a builder for development. The house reopened as the Howard Park Hotel in 1932, and was later damaged by fire and demolished in 1956.
The estate was acquired by Buckinghamshire County Council c.1959 and opened as Green Park, a public park, with a county training facility and sports complex being built on the site of the former mansion.
See Aston Clinton House, Buckinghamshire in The Rothschild Archive Annual Review 2002-2003 and Mr Warren's photograph album: memories of a vanished Rothschild estate in The Rothschild Archive Annual Review 2012-2013 for more information about Aston Clinton.Return to Estates listing