Cliveden is an Italianate mansion and estate at Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England. Set on banks 40 metres (130 ft) above the River Thames, its grounds slope down to the river. The site has been home to an Earl, two Dukes, a Prince of Wales and the Viscounts Astor.
As home of Nancy Astor, the house was the meeting place of the Cliveden set of the 1920s and 1930s - a group of political intellectuals. Later, during the 1960s, it became the setting for key events of the notorious Profumo Affair. During the 1970s, it was occupied by Stanford University of California who used it as an overseas campus. Today owned by the National Trust, the house is leased as a five-star hotel run by von Essen Hotels.
"Cliveden" (pronounced CLIV-d'n) means "valley among cliffs" and refers to the dean or valley which cuts through the estate to the west of the house. "Cliveden" has been spelled differently over the centuries, some of the variations being Cliffden, Clifden, Cliefden and Clyveden. The 375 acres (152 ha) gardens and woodlands are open to the public, together with parts of the house on certain days. There have been three houses on this site: the first, built in 1666, burned down in 1795 and the second house (1824) was also destroyed by fire, in 1849. The present Grade 1 listed house was built in 1851 by the architect Charles Barry for George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland.
Designed by Sir Charles Barry in 1851 to replace a house previously destroyed by fire, the present house is a blend of the English Palladian style and the Roman Cinquecento. The Victorian three-storey mansion sits on a 400-foot (120 m) long, 20-foot (6.1 m) high brick terrace or viewing platform (only visible from the South side) which dates from the mid-seventeenth century. The exterior of the house is rendered in Roman cement, with terracotta additions such as balusters, capitals, keystones and finials. The roof of the mansion is meant for walking on and there is a circular view, above the tree-line, of parts of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire including Windsor Castle to the South.
Below the balustraded roofline is a Latin inscription which continues around the four sides of the house and recalls its history; it was composed by the then prime minister Gladstone. On the West front it reads: "POSITA INGENIO OPERA CONSILIO CAROLI BARRY ARCHIT A MDCCCLI" which translated reads: "The work accomplished by the brilliant plan of architect Charles Barry in 1851." The main contractor for the work was Lucas Brothers. The clock tower next to the house is in fact a disguised water tower.
In 1984-6 the exterior of the mansion was overhauled and a new lead roof installed by the National Trust, while interior repairs were carried out by Cliveden Hotel.
Cliveden stands on the site of a house built in 1666 designed by architect William Winde as the home of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. But before Buckingham's purchase the land was owned by the Mansfield family and before that to the de Clyveden family.
The details are recorded in a document compiled by William Waldorf Astor in 1894 called "The Historical Descent of Cliveden". It shows that in 1237 the land was owned by Geoffrey de Clyveden and by 1300 it had passed to his son, William, who owned fisheries and mills along the Cliveden Reach stretch of the Thames and at nearby Hedsor.
The document also shows that in 1569 a lodge existed on the site along with 50 acres (200,000 m2) of land and was owned by Sir Henry Manfield and later his son, Sir Edward. In 1573 there were two lodges on 160 acres (650,000 m2) of treeless chalk escarpement above the Thames. It was on this impressively high but exposed site that Buckingham chose to build the first Cliveden house.
Buckingham pulled down the earlier buildings and chose William Winde as his architect. Winde designed a four-storey house above an arcaded terrace. Today, the terrace is the only feature of Buckingham's house to survive the 1795 fire. Although the Duke's intention was to use Cliveden as a "hunting box" he later housed his mistress Anna, Countess of Shrewsbury there. A contemporary account of Buckingham's antics with Anna is recounted by Samuel Pepys in his diary of the period.
1st Earl of Orkney
After Buckingham's death in 1687 the house remained empty until the estate was purchased by George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney in 1696. Orkney became a general in the Battle of Blenheim (1704) and later governor of Virginia, then an English colony, without ever setting foot on American soil. The Earl employed the architect Thomas Archer to add two new "wings" to the house, connected by curved corridors. Although an almost identical arrangement exists today, these are later reconstructions, the originals having been destroyed in the fire of 1795. All that remains of Archer's work inside the house today is a staircase in the West wing. Orkney's contributions to the gardens can still be seen today, most notably the Octagon Temple and the Blenheim Pavilion, both designed by the Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni. The landscape designer Charles Bridgeman was also commissioned to devise woodland walks and carve a rustic turf amphitheatre out of the cliff-side.
Frederick, Prince of Wales
Between 1737 and 1751 the estate was leased to Frederick, Prince of Wales by Orkney's heirs after his death. Frederick was the son of George II and the father of George III. After falling out with his father, Frederick used Cliveden to enable him to withdraw from life at the royal court. At Cliveden he established a family home for his wife Augusta and their children.
It was during the Prince's tenure of the house that Rule, Britannia! (an aria by the English composer Thomas Arne) was first performed in public in the cliff-side amphitheatre at Cliveden on 1 August 1740. It was played as part of a masque to celebrate the third birthday of his daughter, Augusta.
It is believed that it was at Cliveden in 1751 that the Prince received a blow to the chest from a cricket ball while playing in the grounds; the resulting infection proved fatal.
After his death, Frederick's family left Cliveden and the estate was once again used by Orkney's heirs until the night of 20 May 1795 when the house caught fire and burned down. The cause of the fire was thought to have been a servant knocking over a candle.
Sir George Warrender
After the fire of 1795 the house remained a ruin for the first quarter of the 19th century until, in 1824 the estate was purchased by Sir George Warrender, 4th Baronet. To rebuild Cliveden, Warrender selected William Burn, a Scottish architect, and decided on a design for a two-storey mansion designed with entertaining on a grand scale in mind.
George, 2nd Duke of Sutherland
Warrender died in 1849 and the house was sold to the Sutherland family, headed by the second Duke. Sutherland had only been in possession of the estate for a few months when, in the same year as his acquisition the house burned down for the second time in its history. The cause this time appears to have been negligence on the part of the decorators.
The Duke was prompt in commissioning the architect Charles Barry to rebuild Cliveden in the style of an Italianate villa. Barry, whose most famous project is arguably the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, was inspired by the outline of the two earlier houses for his design. The third (and present) house on the site was completed in 1851-2 and its exterior appearance has little changed to this day. The 100-foot (30 m)-tall clock tower, which is actually a water tower (still working to this day) was added in 1861 by the architect Henry Clutton. Also around this time another architect, George Devey, was commissioned to build half-timbered cottages on the estate along with a dairy and boathouse.
After the duke's death in 1861, his widow Harriet continued to live at the house for part of the year until her death in 1868, after which it was sold to her son-in-law Hugh Lupus, Earl Grosvenor, later 1st Duke of Westminster.
1st Duke of WestminsterWhen one lives in Paradise, how hard it must be to ascend in heart and mind to Heaven.—Lady Frederick Cavendish on Cliveden, June 1863.
Westminster was one of the wealthiest Englishmen of the period so it is understandable that he would want to contribute to Cliveden's architecture. Among his additions to the house and gardens are the porte cochere on the north front of the mansion, a new stable block and the dovecote, all designed by Henry Clutton.
In 1893 the estate was purchased by the American billionaire William Waldorf Astor (later 1st Lord Astor) who made sweeping alterations to the gardens and the interior of the house, but lived at Cliveden as a recluse after the early death of his wife. He gave Cliveden to his son Waldorf on the occasion of his marriage to Nancy Langhorne in 1906 and moved to Hever Castle.
The young Astors used Cliveden for entertaining on a lavish scale. The combination of the house, its setting and leisure facilities offered on the estate - boating on the Thames, horse riding, tennis, swimming, croquet and fishing - made Cliveden a destination for film stars, politicians, world-leaders, writers and artists. The heyday of entertaining at Cliveden was between the two World Wars when the Astors held regular weekend house parties. Guests at the time included: Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Amy Johnson, F.D. Roosevelt, H.H. Asquith, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), A.J. Balfour and the writers Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and Edith Wharton. The tradition of high-profile guests visiting the house continues to this day, largely due to the house's conversion into a hotel.There is a ghastly unreality about it all ... I enjoy seeing it. But to own it, to live here, would be like living on the stage of the Scala theatre in Milan.
Also at this time the entertainer Joyce Grenfell, who was Nancy Astor's niece, lived in a cottage on the estate. She also entertained injured troops in the hospital on the estate during World War II.
At the outbreak of World War I, Waldorf Astor offered the use of some of the grounds to the Canadian Red Cross for the building of a hospital – the HRH Duchess of Connaught Hospital – which was dismantled at the end of the hostilities. In September 1939 with the outbreak of World War II Waldorf Astor again offered the use of the land at a rent of one shilling per year to the Canadian Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital was built to the designs of Robert Atkinson. After the war the hospital's main focus was as a nursing school, a maternity unit and a rheumatology unit until the hospital closed in the early 1980s.
In 1942, the Astors gave Cliveden to the National Trust with the proviso that the family could continue to live in the house for as long as they wished. Should this cease, they expressed the wish that the house be used "for promoting friendship and understanding between the peoples of the United States and Canada and the other dominions". With the gift of Cliveden, the National Trust also received from the Astors one of their largest endowments (£250,000 in 1942 which is equivalent to £8,637,518 today). The Astors ceased to live at Cliveden in 1968, shortly after the Profumo Affair and Bill Astor's death.
The interior of the house today is very different from its original appearance in 1851–52. This is mainly due to the 1st Lord Astor who radically altered the interior layout and decoration c. 1894–95. Whereas Barry's original interior for the Sutherlands had included a square entrance-hall, a morning room and a separate stair-well, Lord Astor wanted a more impressive entrance to Cliveden so he had all three rooms knocked into one large one (the Great Hall). His aim was to make the interior as much like an Italian palazzo as possible, which would complement the exterior. The ceiling and walls were panelled in English oak, with Corinthian columns and swags of carved flowers for decoration, all by architect Frank Pearson. The staircase newel posts are ornamented with carved figures representing previous owners (e.g. Buckingham and Orkney) by W.S. Frith. Astor installed a large sixteenth-century fireplace, bought from a Burgundian chateaux which was being pulled down. To the left of the fireplace is a portrait of Nancy, Lady Astor by the American portraitist John Singer Sargent. The room was and still is furnished with eighteenth-century tapestries and suits of armour. Originally the floor was covered with Minton encaustic tiles (given to the Sutherlands by the factory) but Nancy Astor had them removed in 1906 and the present flagstones laid. Above the staircase is a painted ceiling by French artist Auguste Hervieu which depicts the Sutherland's children painted as the four seasons. This is the only surviving element of Barry's 1851–2 interior and it is believed that Lord Astor considered it too beautiful to remove.
The French Dining Room is so called because the eighteenth-century Rococo panelling (or boiseries) came from the Chateau d'Asnieres near Paris, a chateau which was leased to Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour as a hunting lodge. When the panelling came up for sale in Paris in 1897, the 1st Lord Astor recognised that it would exactly fit this room at Cliveden. The gilded panelling on a turquoise ground contains carvings of hares, pheasants, hunting dogs and rifles. The console tables and buffet were made in 1900 to match the room. The main dining room of the house until the 1980s, today it is a private dining room with views over the Parterre and Thames.
The second largest room on the ground floor, after the Great Hall, was the drawing room which today is used as the hotel's main dining room. This room, which has views over the Parterre and Thames, was redecorated in 1995 by Eve Stewart, with terracotta-coloured walls, gilded columns and trompe l'oeil shelves of books. The ceiling is painted to resemble clouds and three Bohemian glass chandeliers hang from it. The portraits in the room include the 2nd Duke of Sutherland, the 1st Lord Astor, and Miss Mary Hornack by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Also on the ground floor is the library, panelled in cedar wood, which the Astors used to call the "cigar box", and, next door, Nancy Astor's boudoir. Upstairs are five bedrooms and on the second floor another five. The East wing was and still is guest accommodation, whereas the West wing was domestic offices but in 1994 these were converted into more bedrooms. The National Trust tour only includes the Great Hall and French Dining Room.
In 1984 a hotel company – Blakeney Hotels (later Cliveden Hotel Ltd) – acquired the lease to the house. Led by chairman John Lewis and managing director John Tham (husband of Railway Children actress Jenny Agutter) they restored and refurbished the interior. Rooms are furnished with Edwardian antiques and the house is run in a similar style as it would have been when Nancy Astor was chatelaine.
In 1990 they added the indoor swimming pool and spa treatment rooms in the walled garden, complementing the existing outdoor pool. Also in 1990 a new 100-year lease was granted to run from 1984. In 1994 the conversion of the West wing from domestic offices to provide more bedrooms and two boardrooms (Churchill and Macmillan) was completed. There are 37 bedrooms in total, two dining rooms (the Terrace Dining Room and Waldo's ), and four private dining rooms. Bedrooms are named after previous owners and guests (e.g., Buckingham, Westminster). Three rooms are licenced for civil ceremonies and each year many couples are married at Cliveden. The hotel also lease Spring Cottage by the Thames, one of the key places in the Profumo Affair, and offer it as self-contained accommodation.
The hotel was listed on the London Stock Exchange for a period of time in the 1990s (as Cliveden Plc). This company was bought in 1998 by Destination Europe, a consortium led by billionaire Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. In the early years of the 21st century the lease was acquired by von Essen hotels.
In 2007 Cliveden Hotel claimed to offer the "world's most expensive sandwich" at £100GBP. The von Essen Platinum Club Sandwich was confirmed by Guinness World Records in 2007 to be the most expensive sandwich commercially available.
The hotel's insignia is that of the Sutherland family and consists of a coronet with interlaced "S"s and acanthus leaves. It can be found on radiator grills in parts of the house. The hotel's motto is "Nothing ordinary ever happened here, nor could it."
Gardens and grounds
The estate extends to 375 acres (1.52 km2) of which about 180 acres (0.73 km2) comprise the gardens, the rest being woodland and paddocks.
The formal parterre to the south of the house is one of the largest in Europe at 4 acres (16,000 m2). It consists of clipped yew pyramids and wedge-shaped beds edged with box hedging and filled with catnip and seasonal planting. The Long Garden consists of topiary in the form of corkscrew-spirals, peacocks and box hedges and was designed by Norah Lindsay in c.1900. The Water Garden was laid out by the 1st Lord Astor in c.1900 and features a pagoda, on an island, bought from the Bagatelle estate in Paris. The planting there is mostly spring-flowering: cherry trees, bush wisterias and giant gunneras. The original Rose Garden, designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe for the Astor family in the early 1960s has since suffered from rose disease and has been replanted as a "secret" garden of herbaceous plants. The planting in the herbaceous borders in the forecourt was designed in the 1970s by the National Trust advisor Graham Stuart Thomas. The west-facing border features "hot"-coloured flowers (red, yellow, orange) and the east-facing border is planted with "cooler" colours (blue, pink and white).
There is a lime tree avenue either side of the main drive to the house. Cliveden holds part of the National Plant Collection of Catalpa. In 1897 the 1st Lord Astor imported a section of a Californian redwood and had it installed in the woods. At 16 ft 6 in (5.03 m) across it is the largest section of a Sequoia gigantea in Britain. The woodlands were first laid out by Lord Orkney in the eighteenth century on what had been barren cliff-top; they were later much restocked by Bill Astor but suffered badly in the Great Storm of 1987. The National Trust continues the re-planting of the beechwoods.
The original Cliveden maze, commissioned by Lord Astor in 1894, is undergoing restoration, after having lain overgrown and inaccessible since the 1950s, with a view to opening it to the public in 2011. It will be replanted with 1,100 six-foot-tall yew trees.
Temples, pavilions and follies
The earliest known garden buildings at Cliveden were both designed by Giacomo Leoni for Lord Orkney; the Blenheim Pavilion (c.1727) was built to commemorate Orkney's victory as a general at the Battle of Blenheim. The Octagon Temple, situated two-hundred feet above the Thames, was originally designed as a gazebo and grotto but was later converted by the 1st Lord Astor to become the family chapel. Its interior and dome are decorated with colourful mosaics by Clayton and Bell representing religious scenes. The pagoda in the water garden was made for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867 and was purchased by the 1st Lord Astor from the Bagatelle estate in Paris in 1900. In the woods there is a small flint folly thought to date from the mid-nineteenth century.
One of the features of the gardens is the large collection of sculpture, most of it acquired by the 1st Lord Astor from 1893 to 1906. The shell fountain, known as the Fountain of Love, greets visitors at the end of the lime tree avenue up to the house. It was sculpted by Thomas Waldo Story , (American, 1855–1915) in Rome in 1897 and was commissioned by Lord Astor for this site. It features a large Carrara marble shell supporting three life-size female figures attended by cupid. The "Tortoise" fountain near the parterre was also made by T.W. Story at around the same time.
In the forecourt there is a collection of eight marble Roman sarcophagi, some of which date from c.AD 100 and were bought by Lord Astor from Rome.
The Queen Anne Vase at the end of the Long Walk is said to have been given to Lord Orkney by Queen Anne in the eighteenth century and consists of a tall urn on a plinth decorated with the Greek key pattern.
At the far-end of the parterre is a 20th-century copy of a bronze group entitled The Rape of Proserpina (Italian, c.1565), bought by W.W. Astor from Italy. The original is now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The well-heads and oil-jars found throughout the gardens came from Venice and Rome respectively.
The largest sculpture in the grounds, technically in two parts, is the 17th-century Borghese Balustrade on the parterre. Purchased by Lord Astor in the late 19th century from the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome, it is crafted from Travertine stone and brick tiles by Giuseppe Di Giacomo and Paolo Massini in c.1618-19. It features seats and balustrading with fountain basins and carved eagles.
In 2004, a colony of small Mediterranean land snails of the species Papillifera bidens was discovered living on the Borghese Balustrade. Presumably this species, new to the English fauna, was accidentally imported along with the balustrade in the late 19th century, and managed to survive the intervening winters to the present day.
Film and television
- In the 2004 film Thunderbirds, Cliveden is used as the location for Lady Penelope's house, 'Creighton-Ward Mansion'.
- The house is featured in the 2005 film Mrs. Henderson Presents.
- The house and grounds are featured in the 2001 Bollywood film Yaadein
- In the second Beatles film, Help! (1965), the scenes that were supposed to be in Buckingham Palace were filmed at Cliveden.
- The house appears in the film Don't Lose Your Head, from the Carry-On genre of 1960s films.
- Horse and carriage sequences in The Card (aka The Promoter) (1952) starring Alec Guinness were filmed on the drive.
- The Thames at Cliveden appears in both Chaplin (1992) and Carrington (1995).
- Cliveden's panelled library stands in for a priest's New York study in the 2008 film Made of Honor.
- A UK lottery advertisement portrays a man running around on the grounds at Cliveden.
- Cliveden was featured as part of a reward on the UK television show The Apprentice.
- In 2000 the BBC Antiques Roadshow used the grounds as a venue for a valuation day.
- Cliveden was also feaured in the film The Yellow Rolls Royce with Rex Harrison, George C. Scott, and Shirley MacLaine.
- Scandal (1989), story of the Profumo affair.
- The main gates appear in the 1978 film Death on the Nile.
- The interior and exterior of Spring Cottage appears in ITV's Cards on the Table, (2005).
- The French Dining room stands in for a hotel bedroom in Sherlock Holmes (2009).
- In Chapter 12 of Three Men in a Boat (1889), Jerome K. Jerome describes Cliveden Reach as "unbroken loveliness this is, perhaps, the sweetest stretch of all the river ..."
- In Boogie Up the River (1989) Mark Wallington retraces Jerome's journey to mark its centenary, with the Thames at Cliveden described in Chapter 5.
- The poet Alexander Pope wrote (c. 1730) of the Duke of Buckingham's affair with Anna, Countess of Shrewsbury: "Gallant and gay in Cliveden's proud alcove/The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love."
- Daniel Defoe describes the first house in A Tour Through England and Wales (1726).
- Gore Vidal in his 1948 novel The City and the Pillar: "The Cliveden-Churchill Set are too well entrenched and I shouldn't be in the least surprised if they created some sort of dictatorship that could never be thrown off without a revolution."
- ^ Room, Adrian (1992). Brewer's Dictionary of Names: People Places and Things. Brewer. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-85986-232-2.
- ^ Crathorne 1995, p. 10
- ^ Crathorne, 1995, p.29.
- ^ Crathorne 1995, p. 206
- ^ National Trust 1994, p. 66
- ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.30.
- ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.46.
- ^ Crathorne, 1995, p.10.
- ^ a b N.T. Guide, 1994, p.19
- ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.28.
- ^ Quoted in Crathorne, 1995, frontispiece.
- ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.36.
- ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.42.
- ^ Crathorne, 1995, p.213.
- ^ Quoted in N.T. Guide, 1994, p.45.
- ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.26
- ^ Crathorne 1995
- ^ National Trust 1971, p. 10
- ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Measure Worth: UK CPI
- ^ National Trust 1994, p. 42
- ^ Crathorne, 1995, p.181.
- ^ a b Crathorne 1995, p. 202
- ^ National Trust 1994, p. 26
- ^ Crathorne 1995, pp. 204–5
- ^ a b c d "Cliveden Hotel website". Clivedenhouse.co.uk. http://www.clivedenhouse.co.uk/. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- ^ "The Company File Gates' group seals Cliveden deal". BBC News (BBC). 1998-07-27. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/139907.stm. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- ^ BBC News website. Last accessed 11/03/10.
- ^ National Trust 1994, p. 85
- ^ Llewellyn 1989, p. 123
- ^ National Trust 1994, p. 76
- ^ National Trust 1994, p. 77
- ^ Maidenhead Advertiser website. Last accessed 12/03/10
- ^ National Trust 1994
- ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.47.
- ^ National Trust 1994, p. 60
- ^ name="Sharpe">Janet Rideout Sharpe.March 2005.Papillifera papillaris (Gastropoda:Clausiliidae): a new record for Britain The Archeo+Malacology Group Newsletter, (7):page 6–7.
- ^ Moral Essays
- Crathorne, James (1995), Cliveden: The Place and the People, London
- Llewellyn, R (1989), Elegance and Eccentricity
- National Trust, The (1971), Guide to Cliveden, London: National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
- National Trust, The (1994), Guide to Cliveden, London: National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
- Astor, Michael, Tribal Feeling, London,1963.
- Coates, Tim, The Scandal of Christine Keeler and John Profumo: Lord Dennings Report 1967, London,2003.
- Fox, James, The Langhorne Sisters, London, 1998.
- Hayward, Allyson, Norah Lindsay: The Life and Art of a Garden Designer, London,2007.
- Jackson-Stopps, Gervase, An English Arcadia, London, 1992.
- Keeler, Christine, The Truth at Last: My Story, London, 2002.
- Lacey, Steven, Gardens of the National Trust, London, 1994.
- Rose, Norman, The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity, London, 2000.
- Sinclair, David, Dynasty: The Astors and their Times, London, 1983.
- Stanford, Peter, Bronwen Astor: Her Life and Times, London, 2001.
- nationaltrust.org.uk Cliveden information at the National Trust
- Cliveden House Hotel
- The Anglo-American Establishment: From Rhodes to Cliveden by Carroll Quigley
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.