Ascott, Buckinghamshire, England
In 1873 Lionel de Rothschild bought a farm at Ascott in Buckinghamshire for his son Leopold who decided to turn it into a fashionable country house to entertain his guests. George Devey, who had worked on other Rothschild projects, drew up plans for an Old English or Jacobean style house. Taking the original farmhouse as the core, he created an informal, sinuous range of gables, chimneys and half-timbering. A keen gardener, Leopold took the advice of the horticulturalist Sir Harry Veitch , and planted some remarkable trees and shrubs chosen for their magnificent autumn colours. Leopold also planted an evergreen sundial in box and Irish yew.
Leopold took over the running of his father's stud at Gunnersbury in 1879, the year of his father's death, before moving it to his Ascott estate. It became the Southcourt Stud farm, near Leighton Buzzard, from where many winners were bred. His trainers included Tom Cannon, his son Tom Cannon Jnr, Joseph Hayhoe and John Watson.
Leopold’s hospitality and generosity were legendary, and Ascott provided the perfect rural retreat at which to entertain with comfort and refinement without ostentation or extravagance. Leopold’s wife, Marie Perugia also came to love the house, often extending her stay there in the hunting season after Leopold had gone back to London. The attractions of Ascott for hunting enthusiasts were added to by the other amusements Leopold offered them : golf, lawn tennis, croquet and bridge were among the favourites. On his death in 1917, the house passed to his son Anthony who made numerous alterations, updating the plumbing and heating systems, enlarging some windows and adding others, and constructing special recesses and vitrines to house his collections.
In 1949 ownership of the house was transferred to the National Trust; Southcourt Stud is still owned by the Rothschild family.