The Rise & Decline of 'Rothschildshire'
Ascott House South Front.
Ascott became well known as a perfect weekend house for tired statesmen and men of business, and my cousins were the very centre of much pleasant and varied society during the whole of their married lives.  But I rejoiced particularly in the fact that there the old Rothschild traditions were well maintained, and that the relationship between landlord and tenants was so perfect.”
REMINISCENCES by Constance Lady Battersea (1922)

Waddesdon Manor and its contents may lay claim to being the most magnificent of the Rothschildshire houses, but Ascott House with its terraced lawns, panoramic views to the Chilterns, specimen and ornamental trees, mirror image herbaceous borders, impressive topiary (including a box and yew sundial) and, in season, a sea of daffodils, takes the prize for botanical splendour.

Ascott is a hamlet near Wing in Buckinghamshire. In 1575 Robert Dormer (1551-1616) succeeded to the considerable lands of his father in Buckinghamshire and elsewhere. Ascott Hall, as it was then known, was built in ‘Wing Park’ adjoining the village and became the Dormers’ mansion.

Dormer was succeeded by his grandson Robert, later 1st Earl of Caernarvon, who added a
“noble apartment” [Historic England] to the house to the design of Inigo Jones.  The title Earl of Caernarvon became extinct with the death of the 2nd Earl in 1709, and the manor of Wing passed to the Stanhope family.  Sir William Stanhope, who was given the manor by his father, allowed the Hall to fall into ruin and it was demolished, probably during the late 18th century.  Around 1800 its foundations were cleared away and the bricks used for road repairs around Wing.

Following the hall’s demolition no building occupied the park until 1860, when a farmhouse built of red brick and in the old English style was erected together with farm buildings.
The first Ascott House - an old farmhouse.
The Sketch, 25th May 1904.
In 1873 Baron Mayer Amschel de Rothschild of the neighbouring Mentmore Towers estate bought the farm, which, on his death in the following year was bequeathed to his nephew Leopold.

Adjoining the Bucks estates, within two miles of Leighton Buzzard, surrounded by property belonging to the then Lord Overstone, stood a charming old farmhouse of the eighteenth century, in the very centre of the hunting country. This was acquired by my Uncle Lionel, and after his death became the property of his son Leopold. In time the old farmhouse blossomed out into a picturesque, very original, many-roomed, glorified cottage, with a beautiful garden that was evolved from the fields; the view over the Vale being a very extensive one, including an enchanting glimpse of the Mentmore towers.

Leopold acquired by degrees most of the land round the place, and it was a happy day for Wing and the neighbouring villages when he became landlord. The adjoining fields of Southcote proved very valuable as nurseries for young race-horses, whilst the kennels for the staghounds and the very spacious stables made the whole property an ideal residence for a man of sporting tastes and most hospitable intents. Who would be the fortunate lady to reign as Queen over this little Paradise? There were several . . .
REMINISCENCES by Constance Lady Battersea (1922)

. . . . of which the beautiful Italian Marie Perugia (1862-1937) stood out, for she was married to Leopold in 1881, thereby breaking the tradition of marriage to a Rothschild cousin. The wedding was one of the social events of the season and was attended by many famous guests including Disraeli and the Prince of Wales, who signed the register in the Central Synagogue, Great Portland Street, becoming the first member of the Royal family to attend a Jewish service.
Ascott House in its second stage.
Photo Payne & Son, Aylesbury.
Leopold intended to use Ascott House as a lodge during the hunting season and also for entertaining his circle of influential friends and contacts.  Realising the limitations imposed by its modest size, in 1874 he employed the architect George Devey to enlarge it.  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.  He was also responsible for the large cottages on the Green near the entrance, now the Estate Offices. Devey was still working on the house at his death in 1886, when his partner James Williams took over the project.  Although further half timbered extensions continued to be added to this house as late as the 1930s, Ascott House is probably Devey’s greatest monument. While construction was in progress the gardens and much of the park were laid out. A keen gardener, Leopold took the advice of the eminent horticulturalist Sir Harry Veitch and planted some remarkable trees and shrubs, chosen for their magnificent autumn colours, together with an evergreen sundial in box and Irish yew, which remains today.
Leopold de Rothschild, CVO.
Mr. Leopold de Rothschild set himself an ambitious task, that of creating a garden, or series of gardens which should recall no one style, but which should, on the contrary, include the graces and the special charms of every period. To say that he has been successful is understating the truth, and it may he doubted if there is anywhere in the Temperate Zone a happier mingling of the formal with the natural . . . . Mr. de Rothschild is in the true sense of the word s tree-fancier, and Ascott has long been famed for its superb trees and shrubs, which include some remarkable examples of the topiarist’s art. In the more formal section of the grounds quaintly clipped yews are a distinctive feature, as are also the stretches of beautifully kept green turf and the grass-paths. All interested in sun-dial literature have heard of the evergreen sun-dial at Ascott; the figures are grown in golden yew, at each corner is a heart-shaped bed, and beyond the figures the moto — Light and Shade by turns, but Love always.”
The Sketch, 25th May 1904.

When Leopold died early in 1917 the house passed to Anthony Gustav de Rothschild (1887-1961), the third and youngest of Leopold and Marie’s three sons.  Anthony made numerous alterations to the house, updating the plumbing and heating systems, enlarging some windows and adding others, and constructing special recesses and vitrines to house his collections.

In 1950 Anthony transferred ownership of the house and grounds to the National Trust, Although Ascott remains the countryside residence of the de Rothschild family, parts of it are now open to the public.