The Rise & Decline of 'Rothschildshire'
Aston Clinton House,
once the home of Sir Anthony de Rothschild. 
Demolished 1956.
“. . . . He was distinguished even among his family, in all matters of business, for practical sense and sagacity; and in the administration of his great estates he combined these qualities with a generosity and kindliness of feeling not always associated with them.  His splendid house at Aston Clinton in Buckinghamshire was the constant scene of hospitality which embraced distinguished persons of all classes and professions, and some of the most interesting society of the last 30 years will always be associated with it.  He and his family were unwearying in beneficence to the poor of the neighbourhood, and always worked in cordial sympathy with the charitable labours of the clergy of the surrounding villages.  But he preferred to exert this charity in the wholesale way of encouraging labour and finding work for the industrious.  Sometimes, indeed, he would find men work in the hope of making them industrious . . . .”
Obituary, Sir Anthony de Rothschild, Bucks Herald, 8th January 1876
Sir Anthony Nathan de Rothschild Bt (1810-76).
As travellers pass through Aston Clinton along the former Sparrows Herne Turnpike, they will probably notice a substantial village hall adjacent to what is now London Road.  The inscription in prominent letters across the tie beam that fronts the building reads Anthony Hall 1884”.  Those unfamiliar with the area’s history might reasonably wonder “who on earth was Anthony?
Anthony Hall, Aston Clinton.
Erected by his wife in memory of Sir Anthony de Rothschild.
Anthony Hall, a grade II-listed building, was among architect George Devey’s [4] last designs.  It was built as a memorial to Sir Anthony Nathan de Rothschild Bt. by his widow Laura, who gifted it to the village.  The hall is one of a few relicts of Sir Anthony’s Aston Clinton estate, the substantial country house that formed its heart having been demolished in 1956, the only one of the six Rothschild mansions in the area to have suffered that fate (so far).

Anthony Nathan (1810-76) was Nathan Mayer’s second son.  Multilingual, he studied at universities in Germany and in France, later serving his apprenticeship in the Rothschild banking businesses in France, Frankfurt and London.  On his father’s death in 1836 he became a partner in the English branch of the family’s banking business, N. M. Rothschild & Sons.
Sir Anthony Nathan de Rothschild Bt (1810-76).
A new line of business that Anthony developed was that of refining gold bullion to separate it from impurities.  From 1809, when Nathan Mayer began to deal in bullion, the trade in this commodity had been central to the firm’s operation.  When, in 1848, a Royal Commission charged with examining the efficiency of the Royal Mint recommended that the roles of refining and coin striking be separated, and that refining be leased to an external agency, Anthony seized the opportunity to manage the Royal Mint’s bullion refinery.  On the 26th January 1852 he wrote to the Deputy Master of the Mint:

I request you will have the goodness to inform the Master of the Mint that I am ready to execute the Lease for the Refinery, and I should be obliged to you to let me know when you receive the confirmation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the conditions of the Lease, in order that the documents relative to it may be completed.”

The Treasury approved the lease of the buildings and equipment and for over a century the ‘Royal Mint Refinery’ was part of N. M. Rothschild’s business interests in England.  In 1847 Anthony was created 1st Baronet de Rothschild of Tring Park.  Having no male heir, on Anthony’s death the title passed to his nephew Nathan Mayer Rothschild, who, in 1885, was created Baron Rothschild of Tring, with which title the baronetcy remains merged.

The Rothschild family’s first interest in Aston Clinton appears to date from 1848, when the Aston Clinton estate was first offered for sale.  In considering the purchase, the London partners remained as prudent as their father and uncles had been before them.  Unless land paid 3½% on the purchase price by way of rental income, they were not interested. 
“If you think that Aston Clinton is worth [£]26,000,” wrote Lionel to Mayer in 1849, “I have no objection to yr. offering it, but I think we ought always to be able to rely on 3½% clear of all charges; it is not like a fancy place, you must consider it entirely as an investment.”

The estate at Aston Clinton had been the property of the Lords Lake.  In 1838, Viscount Lake sold it to the 1st Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, who died in the following year.  Ten years later his son put the estate up for sale, but without receiving a satisfactory offer.  Judging from the newspapers of the time, the house was then advertised ‘TO LET’.
Aston Clinton House - To LET advertisement, The Globe, 10th March 1852.
In 1853 the estate was acquired by Sir Anthony de Rothschild, for in her Reminiscences his daughter Constance records that:
My father, being very fond of shooting and hunting, was fortunate in finding in that county [Bucks] a small house lying just outside the Vale of Aylesbury - that splendid hunting ground - and under the beech woods of the Chiltern Hills, where he had good pheasant shooting.  There we settled down in 1853, spending six months of each year at Aston Clinton . . . . The house was unpretentious at first, but comfortable; as time went on, however, it was enlarged and re-enlarged, finally covering quite a substantial piece of ground.”

While Constance claims the house was
“enlarged”, she might be referring to a house that was already there – the subject of the ‘TO LET’ advertisement – or to later enlargements to an entirely new house built by her father, for the Supplement to the English Cyclopedia (Charles Knight, 1869) states that:
Constance Lady Battersea (1912)
Aston Clinton House, the seat of the Lords Lake, has been pulled down and a much larger mansion erected on the site for the present lord of the manor, Sir A. de Rothschild, Bart., M.P.”

James Sheahan in his History and Topography of Buckinghamshire (1862) also talks about Sir Anthony having erected a
“splendid mansion” on the site of the “ancient Manor-house of the Lord Lakes”, implying that Aston Clinton House was newly built.  Regardless of its starting point, at the time Sir Anthony and his family took up occupation at Aston Clinton, the architect George Henry Stokes and the builder George Myers were at work on nearby Mentmore Towers, so it is unsurprising to learn that the pair were invited to undertake the work on Aston Clinton House that Constance refers to.  Sheahan, writing circa 1862, describes the house as follows:

The ancient Manor-house of the Lord Lakes (Aston Clinton House) was surrounded by a moat, and Sir Anthony de Rothschild has recently erected a splendid mansion on its site.  This beautiful structure is situated under the base of the Chiltern Hills, and is a large square pile with four fronts – the principal one being of Grecian Doric design.  On the North West side is a handsome conservatory with a dome of curvilineal form, which, with the sides, is filled with plate glass.  A long corridor leads to the principal apartments, which are fine and spacious and contain a rare and valuable collection of articles of vertu.  A considerable quantity of rich tapestry adorns the walls.”

Over time the house was extended to include a billiard room, offices and the conservatory mentioned by Sheahan.  The Bucks Herald’s report of the 1873 visit by the Prince of Wales mentions that “a new room to the mansion had been specially added” and that
“covers were laid for 24 in the new dining room”, illustrating that the extensions covered quite a number of years.
The billiard room.
George Devey undertook later architectural work on the house and on the estate, such as the park gateway (in Stablebridge Road) together with the adjacent lodge and stables; a number of estate cottages; Anthony Hall (referred to above); and the Chiltern Hills waterworks (acquired from the Rothschilds by the Chiltern Hills Spring Water Company in 1866):

The other day I went over to see the sanitary improvements carried out by Sir Anthony Rothschild in his cottages at Aston Clinton and adjoining villages.  I found that in each cottage, water brought from the Chiltern Hills had been laid on.  It is not everyone who can, in this particular, follow the example of Sir Anthony, or who, if willing, has a public water works so near at hand.  I have mentioned it, because on inquiry of the cottagers, I found that it was a boon highly prized.”
The Farmer’s Magazine, Volume 76, 1874

Returning to the family, in 1840 Anthony married Louisa Montefiore (1821-1910), daughter of the Jewish banker and philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore.  Lady de Rothschild was also a philanthropist and became a founding member of the Union of Jewish Women.  She had two daughters, Constance (Baroness Battersea, 1843-1931), wife of property developer and Liberal Party politician Cyril Flower (Lord Battersea, 1843-1907); and Annie Henrietta (1844-1926), who married the politician the Hon. Elliot Constantine Yorke (1843-1878), son of Charles Yorke (4th Earl of Hardwicke).  Both daughters inherited their parents’ sense of moral responsibility, both being active in the temperance movement and in philanthropic enterprises.

From an early age Constance, in particular, took an interest in children’s education:

It was about that time [c. 1859] that, my father asking me what I should like to have for a birthday present, I boldly answered, An Infants’ School.  My request was granted, and I was allowed to lay the first stone of the new building.  I must add that the capital teaching in this school, with the songs and recitations of the infants, greatly entertained my dear father for many years.  It is not a little interesting to record here that Matthew Arnold was our first Inspector, and became one of our greatest friends.”
Reminiscences by Constance Lady Battersea (1922)

As with the other Rothschildshire houses, Aston Clinton saw its share of visits by personalities of the day, including Robert Browning, Lord Tennyson, Gladstone, Disraeli, Matthew Arnold and Thackeray, while distinguished artists such as Sir Charles Hallé (pianist) and Joseph Joachim (violinist) were invited to perform at the family’s parties.  Sir Anthony’s little daughters could take a survey course in nineteenth century English political and literary history simply by walking through their father’s drawing room.  But even for a man of Sir Anthony’s wealth, entertaining must sometimes have proved expensive:
The drawing room.
Bucks Herald, 11th January 1873 (extract)
“During the present week Sir Anthony and Lady de Rothschild have been honoured by a visit from the Prince of Wales at their seat at Aston Clinton.  Great preparations had been made for the reception of His Royal Highness and suite; a new room to the mansion had been specially added and other arrangements effected for the better accommodation of the Royal visitor, whose stay lasted from Tuesday until Saturday morning . . . . Covers were laid for 24 in the new dining room.  It is impossible, by any mere description, to do justice to the artistic arrangements of this splendid room, and we would only say that everything which taste and skill could accomplish was brought to bear in its construction and decoration, and to make it worthy of the reception of the Royal party. . . . On Wednesday night a grand ball was held, which was attended by between 200 and 300, including many of the nobility, gentry, and clergy of the district. Coote and Tinney’s hand was in attendance, to whose inspiring music dancing commenced, and was kept up until a late hour on Thursday morning . . . . Thursday morning did not turn out quite so bright as was wished; still the weather did not deter the Prince from attending the meet of Baron Rothschild's hounds at the Wingrave Cross-roads. His Royal Highness left Aston Clinton at about 12 o'clock, in a carriage, accompanied by Sir Anthony, and the Ladies Tankerville and Royston, with the Misses de Rothschild on horseback. The Prince had an opportunity of seeing the village of Aston Clinton, and the villagers were everywhere anxious to catch a glimpse of His Royal Highness as he drove through; and could the prince have contrasted the place now with its condition before the name of Rothschild became connected with it, he would have seen an immense change, and have been able to realise why it is that Sir Anthony and Lady de Rothschild are so deservedly popular and respected by their neighbours and dependents, and especially by the village poor.”
Anthony left no male heirs, so on his death, under the terms of the baronetcy, the title passed to his nephew Nathan Mayer. [5]  In 1885 Nathan was elevated to the House of Lords and created Baron Rothschild of Tring, a title to which the baronetcy was then merged.  In the period following Anthony’s death, Constance is believed to have made further alterations and extensions to the house and garden including a redesigned stable block and a ‘Fairy Glen’ water feature.  The kitchen garden was relocated from the southwest of the house to the site of the old manor house in the north of the park, a new parterre being built in its place.
Aston Clinton House, photograph from the auction catalogue, 1923.
Upon Louisa’s death in 1910, Aston Clinton reverted to the Rothschild Estate and the three sons of Anthony’s brother Lionel jointly inherited the interest.  Constance and Annie maintained the estate until the First World War, staying there periodically during the summer months.  On the outbreak of the First Word War, the family lent the estate to the War Office and it became the headquarters of the 21st Infantry Division:

During the early months of the Great War, in 1914-15, Aston Clinton House, our old home, was given over to the Commanding Officer of the Twenty-first Division, then encamped on the Halton estate.  It was there that first Sir Edward Hutton and later General Forestier-Walker was quartered with his stuff.  I spent many week-ends with my military tenants, and made some good friends amongst them.

One fine summer’s day I stood at the crossing of the roads, near the town of Missenden, watching the departure of the Division, marching off to join the army abroad.  With the deepest regret I heard, as time went on, that some whom I had known well and learnt to look upon as friends could never be welcomed back again by me, as they had laid down their lives for their country
Reminiscences by Constance Lady Battersea (1922)

Training took place on the Aston Clinton and adjoining Halton estates, but the new training camp - under canvas - soon became waterlogged, forcing the division into billets in the locality until hutments had been erected:

Four brigades of field artillery and one heavy battery received their advanced training in the grounds of Aston Clinton House in the spring and summer of 1915, including extensive gas offensive and defensive training.  Final inspection of the division by Lord Kitchener occurred in August 1915 and the move to France took place from 2 to 13 September 1915.”
Aston Clinton House, Wikipedia

Following the war, the Aston Clinton estate was returned to the family. By 1923, Lionel’s three sons had died and the estate had passed to Charles.  When Charles died in 1923, his executors, concerned at the rising cost of its upkeep, put the estate on the market and it was disposed of in sales in 1923 and 1924.
Auctioneer's summary of accommodation from the house sale in 1923.
The house was bought by Dr Albert Edward Bredan-Crawford who, from 1924 to 1930, ran Aston Clinton School, a school for boys with learning difficulties.  Between September 1925 and February 1927 the young novelist Evelyn Waugh spent several unhappy terms there as a teacher.  He thought the house ugly and the park beautiful. [6]
Aston Clinton Park
The Lake.
In December 1930 the school was put up for sale by auction.  In April 1931 the estate reopened as the Aston Clinton Sport and Country Club, having been bought for £23,000 by a syndicate in which the previous owner, Dr Crawford, was chairman.  The club was to offer a “landing ground for light aeroplanes”, 9-hole golf course, swimming pool and facilities for hunting, riding, tennis, squash, archery and croquet.  There was also accommodation for 60 resident guests.  Although the venture got off the ground it didn't pay, and the Club went into liquidation in October 1931.

In 1933, Aston Clinton became the Howard Park Hotel run by Stanley Cecil Howard, the son of a well-known hotelier.  According to the advertisements it was ‘a first-class country hotel’ complete with a landing strip for light aeroplanes, and,  ‘A week-end spent in these luxurious quiet surroundings is well spent, and the hours will slip by . . . . broken by an occasional dance in the wonderful oak ballroom . . . .’  In June 1938 the house became the Green Park Hotel, the earlier business having failed (Stanley Howard was declared bankrupt in 1939).  When war came, the Hotel appears to have had a number of uses including a hospital for RAF war wounded and temporary premises for OXO Ltd and the Ecko Radio Company (who were working on RADAR development).
Awaiting the wrecking ball, 1956.
Following the war the history of the house is unclear.  In September 1946 the “Sale of Entire Contents and Catering Equipment of Green Park Hotel, Aston Clinton” was advertised.  Nothing then is known until, in 1956, when having been damaged by fire the house was demolished.  The estate was then acquired by Buckinghamshire County Council and opened as Green Park, in which a county training facility and sports complex were erected on the site of the former mansion.