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View looking north from the Ring in the Parterre showing Terrace Pavilion and Clock Tower to the left with Lower Terrace and Borghese Balustrade below

Cliveden (pronounced ) 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, three countesses, 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, which used it as an overseas campus. Today owned by the National Trust, the house is leased as a five-star hotel run by London & Regional Properties.

Cliveden means "valley among cliffs"[1] and refers to the dene (valley) which cuts through part of the estate, east of the house. Cliveden has been spelled differently over the centuries, some of the variations being Cliffden, Clifden, Cliefden and Clyveden.[2] 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 I listed house was built in 1851 by the architect George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland.


  • Present house 1
    • Interior 1.1
    • Clock tower 1.2
  • History 2
    • Duke of Buckingham and early history 2.1
    • In the 18th century 2.2
      • 1st Earl of Orkney 2.2.1
      • Frederick, Prince of Wales 2.2.2
    • In the 19th century 2.3
      • Sir George Warrender 2.3.1
      • 2nd Duke of Sutherland 2.3.2
      • 1st Duke of Westminster 2.3.3
    • In the 20th and 21st century 2.4
      • Astor era 2.4.1
      • Cliveden Hotel 2.4.2
  • Gardens and grounds 3
    • Parterre 3.1
    • Themed gardens 3.2
    • Woodland 3.3
    • Maze 3.4
    • Temples, pavilions and follies 3.5
    • Sculpture collection 3.6
    • Borghese balustrade 3.7
    • "Cliveden snail" 3.8
    • Spring Cottage 3.9
    • Cliveden Reach 3.10
  • In popular culture 4
    • Film and television 4.1
    • Literature 4.2
  • Other Clivedens 5
  • Gallery 6
  • References 7
    • Notes 7.1
    • Bibliography 7.2
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Present house

The north front

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.[3] The Victorian three-storey mansion sits on a 400-foot (120 m) long, 20-foot (6.1 m) high brick terrace or viewing platform (visible only from the south side) which dates from the mid-17th 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.[4]

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 William Ewart 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."[5] The main contractor for the work was Lucas Brothers.[6] In 1984–86 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.[7]

In 2013, restoration work on the main house was carried out including the restoration of 300 sash windows and 20 timber doors.[8]


The Hall showing the fireplace and portrait of Nancy Astor

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 stairwell, 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 chateau 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.[9] 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 Hall looking towards the staircase

The French Dining Room is so called because the 18th-century Rococo panelling (or boiseries) came from the Château d'Asnières near Paris, a château 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 original drawing room which today is used as the hotel's main dining room and also has river views.[10]

Also on the ground floor is the library, panelled in cedar wood, which the Astors used to call the "cigar box",[11] and, next door, Nancy Astor's boudoir. Upstairs there are a total of 10 bedroom suites divided equally over two floors. The East wing was and still is guest accommodation, whereas the West wing was domestic offices that were converted into more bedrooms in 1994. The National Trust tour only includes the Great Hall and French Dining Room.

Clock tower

The nearby 100-foot (30m) clock tower was added in 1861 and is the work of the architect Henry Clutton. As a functioning water tower it still provides water for the house today. It is rendered in Roman cement like the rest of the house, and features four clock faces framed by gilded surrounds and a half open staircase on its north side. It was described by the architectural critic Nicholas Pevsner as "the epitome of Victorian flamboyance and assertiveness."[12] The tower is topped with a modern reproduction of Augustin Dumont's 19th century winged male figure Le Génie de la Liberté (the Spirit of Liberty). The original is atop the July Column in the Place de la Bastille, Paris. This replaces two earlier versions, the first having fallen from the tower during a storm in the 1950s.[13] The new statue is made of bronze and was created using Dumont's original mould from the 1860s found in a museum in Semur-en-Auxois, France.[13] It measures 2.2 metres in height, is covered in two layers of 23.5 carat gold leaf and cost a total of £68,000.[13] It is an allegorical sculpture which holds the torch of civilization in its right hand and the broken chain of slavery in its left. It was affixed to the tower in spring 2012.[13]


Duke of Buckingham and early history

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham

Cliveden stands on the site of a house built in 1666 designed by architect

  • Cliveden information at the National Trust
  • Cliveden House Hotel
  • National Trust Collections: an online directory of items at Cliveden

External links

  • 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.

Further reading

  • 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, The (1994), Guide to Cliveden, London:  


  1. ^ Room, Adrian (1992). Brewer's Dictionary of Names: People Places and Things. Brewer. p. 118.  
  2. ^ Crathorne 1995, p. 10
  3. ^ Crathorne, 1995, p.29.
  4. ^ Crathorne 1995, p. 206
  5. ^ National Trust 1994, p. 66
  6. ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.30.
  7. ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.46.
  8. ^ "Restoration of Sash Windows for Cliveden House completed - TRC Contracts". TRC Contracts (in en-GB). Retrieved 2015-10-17. 
  9. ^ National Trust 1994, p. 42
  10. ^ Cliveden Hotel website Last accessed 16 February 2015
  11. ^ Crathorne, 1995, p.181.
  12. ^ Pevsner, N. The Buildings of England: Buckinghamshire, London, 1960, p.48
  13. ^ a b c d "Cliveden's Spirit of Liberty flies in". National Trust. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  14. ^ Crathorne, 1995, p.10.
  15. ^ a b National Trust Guide Cliveden, 2012, p.3
  16. ^ quoted in Crathorne, Cliveden, London, 1995, pp12-13
  17. ^ National Trust Guide, National Trust U.K. "Clivedon National Trust Guide". Ownership / Occupants of Cliveden -Family of Earl of Orkney. National Trust U.K. 
  18. ^ a b N.T. Guide, 1994, p.19
  19. ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.28.
  20. ^ Quoted in Crathorne, 1995, frontispiece.
  21. ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.36.
  22. ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.42.
  23. ^ Crathorne, 1995, p.213.
  24. ^ Quoted in N.T. Guide, 1994, p.45.
  25. ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.26
  26. ^ CWGC Cemetery Report.
  27. ^ Crathorne 1995
  28. ^ National Trust 1971, p. 10
  29. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Measure Worth: UK CPI
  30. ^ a b Crathorne 1995, p. 202
  31. ^ National Trust 1994, p. 26
  32. ^ Crathorne 1995, pp. 204–5
  33. ^ a b c d "Cliveden Hotel website". Retrieved 2010-03-02. 
  34. ^ "The Company File Gates' group seals Cliveden deal". BBC News ( 
  35. ^ "World's most expensive sandwich". BBC News. Retrieved 11 March 2010. 
  36. ^ Neate, Rupert (2 September 2011). "Property magnates poised to buy Profumo mansion Cliveden". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 6 September 2011. 
  37. ^ Harmer, Janet (30 January 2012). "Cliveden sale to complete tomorrow as new owners promise to return property's sparkle". Caterer & Hotelkeeper. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  38. ^ [2] Cliveden Hotel website
  39. ^ National Trust 1994, p. 85
  40. ^ Llewellyn 1989, p. 123
  41. ^ NT Guide, Cliveden, 1994, pp.48-49
  42. ^ a b c NT Guide, Cliveden, 2012, p.16
  43. ^ NT GUIDE, Cliveden, 1994. p.69
  44. ^ NT Guide, Cliveden, 1994, pp48-49
  45. ^ Crathorne, Cliveden, 1995, p.99
  46. ^ a b NT Guide, Cliveden, 1994, p.69
  47. ^ NT website
  48. ^ Quest-Ritson, The English Garden, London, 2001, p.202
  49. ^ NT work in progress page
  50. ^ National Trust 1994, p. 76
  51. ^ National Trust 1994, p. 77
  52. ^ RHS website. Last accessed 16/03/12]
  53. ^ "From a tea-room temple to a chapel". National Trust. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  54. ^ Astor Mausoleum
  55. ^ National Trust 1994
  56. ^ N.T. Guide, 1994, p.47.
  57. ^ National Trust 1994, p. 60
  58. ^ Sharpe, Janet Rideout (March 2005). "Papillifera papillaris (Gastropoda:Clausiliidae): a new record for Britain" (PDF). The Archeo+Malacology Group Newsletter, (7). p. 6–7. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  59. ^ a b c d e f g h "Spring Cottage". Institute of Historic Building Conservation contacts. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  60. ^ quoted in Crathorne, Cliveden, 1995, p79
  61. ^ a b "Spring Cottage". Images of England. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  62. ^ a b Crathorne, p.184
  63. ^ Crathorne, p.185
  64. ^ Alexander Pope, Moral Essays




There is a late colonial-era mansion named after Cliveden in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, better known as the Chew Mansion of note in the 1777 Battle of Germantown.

Other Clivedens

  • 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."[64]
  • Daniel Defoe mentions 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."
Cliveden from the River Thames


  • In the 2004 film Thunderbirds, Cliveden is used as the model 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 1960s Carry-On strand of films.
  • Horse and carriage sequences in The Card (a.k.a. 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 featured in the film Shirley MacLaine.
  • Scandal (1989), story of the Profumo affair, is inspired by events which took place at Cliveden, but is not filmed there.
  • 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).
  • The house appears as itself in the 1982 BBC TV series Nancy Astor.
  • The garden and interior of Spring Cottage and surrounding riverside location are used in the film Dead Man's Folly (1986).
  • Appears as the Czech HQ in 1975 WWII film Operation Daybreak
  • Appears in the 1973 film Frankenstein - The True Story directed by Jack Smight starring James Mason, Jane Seymour, Leonard Whiting, David McCallum and Michael Sarrazin.

Film and television

In popular culture

Cliveden Reach, between Cookham Lock and Boulter's Lock, is one of the classic scenic stretches of the Thames. Cliveden House may be accessed by watercraft from the mooring on Cliveden Reach half a mile downstream from Cliveden boathouse. Cliveden Reach is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and angling. The National Trust offers self-hire boats and guided river cruises.

Cliveden Reach

Spring cottage was awarded Grade II listed status in 1986[61] and in 1997 the hotel company which leased Cliveden House from the National Trust also acquired the lease to the cottage.[59] A reported £750,000[59] was spent restoring and refurbishing the dilapidated building before it reopened in 1998 as a self-contained luxury hideaway with the same standards as the nearby five-star hotel itself.[59] The cottage and its garden are not open to the public.

In 1957, the cottage came to the attention of London osteopath Stephen Ward, who had been hired to treat Bill Astor. He leased the cottage from the Astors for a minimal rent for use as a weekend retreat.[62] Among the guests invited to stay there were London call girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.[62] A chance meeting in 1961 between Keeler and cabinet minister John Profumo (a guest of the Astors) at the Cliveden swimming pool led to what was subsequently called the Profumo Affair which in turn led to the fall of the Macmillan government.[63]

In 1857, the Duke of Sutherland, who had owned Cliveden for eight years, commissioned George Devey to enlarge the existing building into a two-storey cottage.[59] The subsequent alterations were in the vernacular style with brick and stucco walls, fish-scale pattern roof slates, a Gothick-style loggia and a turret above an exterior staircase leading to a balcony.[61] Throughout the remainder of the 19th century the main function of the cottage was as a place of leisure and was frequently used by the Duke's wife Harriet to entertain guests, most notably her friend Queen Victoria.[59]

This is the largest and most complex of the four timber-framed cottages designed or altered by the architect river Thames on the Cliveden estate. The first structure on the site was a Gothick-style summerhouse with an octagonal vaulted plaster ceiling designed in 1813 by architect Peter Nicholson for Mary, 4th Countess of Orkney.[59] She was living in one wing of the burnt down mansion at the time of the commission. It was used as a tea house and spa for the many visitors attracted to the nearby mineral springs, which flowed from the chalk cliff above and ran down into the Thames.[59] Nicholson published his designs for the house in his Architectural Dictionary of 1813 in the form of a cross-section of the interior and ceiling projection. In auction particulars dated 1821, which list all structures on the estate, the building is described as a Banqueting house "at the much admired spring",[60] whilst several decades later it was described as an "ornamental fishing villa."[59]

The west front of Spring Cottage across the River Thames with the Cliveden beechwoods behind.

Spring Cottage

[58] In 2004, a colony of small Mediterranean land snails of the species

"Cliveden snail"

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 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.

Borghese balustrade

The well-heads and oil-jars found throughout the gardens came from Venice and Rome respectively.[57]

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.[56]

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 18th century and consists of a tall urn on a plinth decorated with the Greek key pattern.

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.

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.[55] 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.

Thomas Waldo Story's Fountain of Love inscribed Waldo Story Roma 1897

Sculpture collection

In the woods there is a small flint folly thought to date from the mid-19th century.

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.

The Octagon Temple, situated 200 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. The chapel was also adapted into the final resting place for the Astors by William Waldorf Astor in 1893, and now three generations of the Astor family are buried here.[53] Its interior and dome are decorated with colourful mosaics by Clayton and Bell representing religious scenes.[54]

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.

Temples, pavilions and follies

Giacomo Leoni's 1735 "Octagon Temple"

The original Cliveden maze, commissioned by Lord Astor in 1894, has undergone major restoration after having lain overgrown and inaccessible since the 1950s. It was replanted with 1,100 six-foot-tall yew trees covering an area of one-third of an acre (1.2 hectares) and opened to the public in 2011.[52]


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.[50] 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.[51] 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.


In 2011, the Trust began an ambitious project to restore the 19th-century Round Garden near the eastern edge of the estate. Originally this is where fruit was grown for the house but since the 1950s it has laid overgrown. The circular garden has a diameter of 250 ft and restoration will include reinstating the paths and wrought iron arches as well as original fruit varieties where possible.[49]

The Italian-style 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 Japanese-style Water Garden was laid out by the 1st Lord Astor in c.1893 and is believed to be the first such oriental-inspired garden in the country.[48] It 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).

Themed gardens

[47] but in 2010 the Trust decided to recreate Fleming's original nineteenth-century planting scheme.[46] At this time (and for the next three decades)the beds contained a massed-planting effect of silver-evergreen Senecio "Sunshine" and Santolina,[46] pyramids at the corners of the beds in 1976.yew (1864). The Trust planted the present clipped Winter and Spring Flower Gardening The Cliveden scheme in the 19th-century is well documented in Fleming's handbook [42] The beds were planted with a seasonal mix of bulbs, annuals and shrubs such as gladioli, hollyhocks, tulips, pansies and azaleas. Fleming pioneered this style of planting at Cliveden, which was later to be named "carpet-bedding."[42] The Duke commissioned both Charles Barry (who had rebuilt the mansion after the second fire) and John Fleming (the head gardener) to produce designs for a complex parterre of flower beds. Fleming's design, which featured two sets of eight interlocking wedge-shaped beds, was chosen and is the template for what can be seen today.[45] The parterre endured in this form until the mid 19th-century when the estate was owned by the Duke of Sutherland and by which time the garden had been neglected. It was described by the Duke's son Lord Ronald Gower as "a prairie...a huge field of grass and wild flowers."[44] Orkney referred to the garden as his "Quaker parterre" because of its simplicity.[43] At the far end there was (and still is) a sunken feature in the turf where Orkney's horses were exercised in a form of open-air manège.[42] trees.elm), Orkney eventually chose a much simpler plan involving an open expanse of lawn surrounded by raised gravel walks and double rows of Versailles, the nephew of André LeNôtre (both designers had previously worked at Claude Desgots Although he had previously commissioned plans for elaborate parterre schemes from [41] The formal


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 parterre seen from the terrace, looking south, with the restored 19th-century style planting

Gardens and grounds

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.[39] The hotel's motto is "Nothing ordinary ever happened here, nor could it."[33]

The lease to Cliveden Hotel was then purchased in February 2012 by Richard and Ian Livingstone, owners of London & Regional Properties, (also the new owners of the next door 220 acre estate called Dropmore Park) who placed it under the management of Andrew Stembridge from Chewton Glen.[37] In January 2015 the hotel closed for one month to carry out a refurbishment of the interior and for the National Trust to repair the roof.[38] In October 2015 Cliveden was announced as the AA Hotel of the Year (England) for 2015/2016.

The hotel was listed on the London Stock Exchange for a period of time in the 1990s (as Cliveden Plc).[30] This company was bought in 1998 by Destination Europe, a consortium led by billionaire Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.[34] 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 £100. The von Essen Platinum Club Sandwich was confirmed by Guinness World Records in 2007 to be the most expensive sandwich commercially available.[35] Cliveden was the "jewel in the crown" of Von Essen Hotels when the company collapsed in 2011.[36]

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.[31] In 1994 the conversion of the West wing from domestic offices to provide more bedrooms and two boardrooms (Churchill and Macmillan) was completed.[32] There are 37 bedrooms in total, all of which are named after previous owners and guests (e.g., Buckingham, Westminster).[33] In addition to the Terrace Dining room, there are a further four private dining rooms. Three rooms are licensed for civil ceremonies and each year many couples are married at Cliveden.[33] 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.[33]

Cliveden Hotel from the parterre

In 1984, 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.[30] 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.

Cliveden Hotel

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."[27] With the gift of Cliveden, the National Trust also received from the Astors one of their largest endowments[28] (£250,000 in 1942 which is equivalent to £10,406,216[29] today). The Astors ceased to live at Cliveden in 1968, shortly after the Profumo Affair and Bill Astor's death.

Attached to the military hospital and within the grounds was established Cliveden War Cemetery. There are 42 Commonwealth war graves, 40 from World War I (mostly Canadians) and two from World War II, besides two American service war graves from the first war.[26]

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.

Cliveden War Cemetery in the Cliveden grounds

Also at this time the entertainer Joyce Grenfell, who was Nancy Astor's niece, lived in a cottage on the estate.[25] She also entertained injured troops in the hospital on the estate during World War II.

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.
— Harold Nicolson after a visit to Cliveden in 1936.[24]

The young Astors used Cliveden for entertaining on a lavish scale.[22] The combination of the house, its setting and leisure facilities offered on the estate—boating on the Thames, horse riding, tennis, swimming, 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.[23]

In 1893, the estate was purchased by a very wealthy American, 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.

Nancy, Lady Astor by John Singer Sargent. The painting hangs at Cliveden.

Astor era

In the 20th and 21st century

Westminster was one of the wealthiest Englishmen of the period[21] 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 cochère on the north front of the mansion, a new stable block and the dovecote, all designed by Henry Clutton.

When one lives in Paradise, how hard it must be to ascend in heart and mind to Heaven.
— Lady Frederick Cavendish on Cliveden, June 1863.[20]

1st Duke of Westminster

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.

The Duke was prompt in commissioning the architect George Devey, was commissioned to build half-timbered cottages on the estate along with a dairy and boathouse.

Warrender died in 1849 and the house was sold to the Sutherland family, headed by the second Duke. Sutherland had been in possession of the estate for only a few months when 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.[19]

A nineteenth-century engraving of the 1851 house from the parterre

2nd Duke of Sutherland

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 William Burn, a Scottish architect, and decided on a design for a two-storey mansion designed with entertaining on a grand scale in mind.

Sir George Warrender

In the 19th century

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.[18]

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.[18]

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.

Between 1737 and 1751, the estate was leased to 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.

Frederick, Prince of Wales

Frederick, Prince of Wales with his sisters at Kew, c.1733. A copy of the painting hangs at Cliveden.

After Buckingham's death in 1687, the house remained empty until the estate was purchased by Battle of Blenheim (1704) and later became 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.

1st Earl of Orkney

In the 18th century

"I went to Clifden (sic) that stupendous natural Rock, Wood & Prospect of the Duke of Buckinghams, & building of extraordinary expense... tis a romantic object & the place altogether answers the most poetical description that can be made of a solitude, precipice, prospect & whatever can contribute to a thing so very like their imagination. The house stands somewhat like Frascati... on the platforme (terrace) is a circular view of the utmost verge of the Horizon which with the serpentining of the Thames is admirably surprising... the Cloisters, Descents, Gardens & avenue through the wood august and stately."[16]

John Evelyn, another contemporary diarist, visited the Duke at Cliveden on the 22nd of July 1679 and recorded the following impression in his Diary:

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. In the Duke's Garden, immediately to the east of the house, flints have been laid in the lawn in the pattern of a rapier with the date 1668 to commemorate the duel between the Duke and his mistress's husband Lord Shrewsbury.[15] The event which took place at Barn Elms near London resulted in Shrewsbury dying of his wounds.[15] A contemporary account of Buckingham's antics with Anna is recounted by Samuel Pepys in his diary of the period.

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 escarpment above the Thames. It was on this impressively high but exposed site that Buckingham chose to build the first Cliveden house.

The 1666 house. Only the arcaded terrace remains today. From Colen Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus, c.1717.

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.


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