The Rise & Decline of 'Rothschildshire'
Who are the Rothschilds
The Rothschilds are a wealthy Jewish family that rose to prominence in the second half of the 18th century.  Their ascent began in 1744 with the birth in Frankfurt of Mayer Amschel Rothschild who, from humble beginnings, went on to develop successful business and financial interests based there.  As his wealth accumulated, and seeking business opportunities further afield, in the early part of the 19th century he despatched each of his five sons to different European cities.  Nathan went to London, Calmann to Naples, Jacob to Paris, while Amschel, the eldest, remained in Frankfurt.  Close cooperation between the brothers enabled the business to grow into a pan-European network that not only handled money, but information, which gave the family a competitive edge in a field in which timely and reliable intelligence is an essential ingredient in making sound investment decisions.  Thus, the businesses prospered, creating exceptional wealth that translated into property and the creation of great country houses and estates across the Continent and beyond.
The English branch of the Rothschild banking business was founded by Mayer’s third son, Nathan Mayer (1777–1836).  Nathan first settled in Manchester circa 1798 where he set up a textile jobbing business specialising in printing on cotton, and from that beginning went on to establish the merchant bank of N. M. Rothschild & Sons in London in 1810.  Through this company Nathan made a fortune trading in the International Bonds Market.  He also dealt in gold bullion, which he developed as a cornerstone of his business, and for most of the 19th century N. M. Rothschild & Sons formed part of the biggest bank in the world.

On Nathan Mayer’s death in 1836, his eldest son Lionel Nathan (1808–1879) continued the English branch of the family business, and it is with Lionel that the family’s connection with the Vale of Aylesbury began.

By the late 19th century the English branch of the Rothschild family had acquired a number of extensive estates in the Vale of Aylesbury and at Tring, their colonisation of the area causing it to be named informally “Rothschildshire”.  The various family members commissioned leading architects to design substantial houses and/or to alter existing properties on their estates.  Of these country houses five of the six remain, two of which, Waddesdon Manor and Ascott House, now being open to the public.  In addition to their country houses each family member had a palatial town residence where the most brilliant receptions and most sumptuous dinners were given, but these properties are outside the scope of this account.