The Incredible Gardens at Cliveden
Photos: Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography
If you are travelling to Buckinghamshire Ann Evans suggests you take time to visit Cliveden Gardens.
There’s so much to say about Cliveden House and Gardens in Buckinghamshire, it’s hard to know where to start. Now owned by the National Trust the Grade I Listed house is now let as a private hotel, but still open to the public on certain days. The gardens are open all year round except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The Cliveden story began in 1605 when the estate was acquired for the Mansfied family. In 1666 George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham took ownership, building the original house on the terrace. It was built as a hunting lodge to entertain his mistress and friends.
Fast forward 300 years and another scandalous love affair took place in Cliveden House – the Profumo Affair. In 1961 a chance meeting between John Profumo, Conservative Secretary of State for War and Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old mistress of a suspected Russian Spy, led to an affair that rocked the Government like never before.
The house you see today is the third house built on the site. In 1795 a devastating fire destroyed the first mansion leaving only the wings. Then came a second fire in 1849, the smoke from which was seen by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. She despatched the castle’s fire engines to help fight the blaze.
The present house was built in 1851 by Charles Barry and in 1893 was sold to William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor for $1.25 million. In 1914 he offered Cliveden as a hospital but it was thought too difficult to adapt, so he offered it to the Canadians who made a hospital in the covered tennis courts and bowling alley.
Over the years it has been home to three Dukes, an Earl and Frederick Prince of Wales. Also, Charlie Chaplin, Nancy Astor, Winston Churchill and President Roosevelt are among the roll call of past guests and owners of the house along with monarchs, politicians, celebrities, the glamorous and elite. On many occasions it has been used for entertaining and film making – including the Beatle’s film Help.
In 2012, a five-year, £6 million restoration project began on the Grade 1 listed
South Terrace. From this South Terrace you can take in the panoramic views over the 6-acre Parterre, with its 30,000 plants and bulbs. This beautiful garden was first laid out in 1855 by John Fleming, and beyond this is the River Thames and the surrounding countryside.
There are 376 acres of park and woodland, 100 acres of which are formal gardens. There is mile upon mile of nature walks including a Fitness Trail; a Storybook Play Den and the paddock with goal posts for sport-lovers and families
A delight to wander through are the Japanese water gardens with their stepping-stones and Octagonal temple, also giant games amidst the greenery. A yew tree maze covers one third of an acre where 500-metres of paths wind their way between two-metre tall hedges. There’s the Pavilion built to commemorate the Battle of Blenheim and the Amphitheatre where the first recital of Rule Britannia was played.
Another delight is the recreated Rose Garden designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicose. You can see unique topiary in the Long Garden and all through the gardens are beautiful structures, statues and fountains, the grandest of which being the Thomas Waldo Story designed Fountain of Love. This was carved in Rome in Carrara marble and volcanic rock – a commission from William Waldorf Astor in 1897.
If you work up an appetite as you meander through the grounds, you can get refreshments, snacks and lunches at the Conservatory Café in the historic Orangery; or food especially for the little ones at the Dolls House Café, or a snack and coffee at the kiosk in the Walled Garden car park.
Cliveden Gardens, Cliveden Road, Taplow, Maidenhead, Buckinghamshire, SL1 8NS