The Rise & Decline of 'Rothschildshire'
Tring Park Mansion, from the South, ballroom on the left.
The history of the Manor of Tring extends back to Domesday, after which it passed through a number of influential owners including the Crown.  In 1685 Sir Christopher Wren was commissioned by the estate’s then owner, Henry Guy, to design a substantial country house (one of only two designed by Wren, the other being ‘Winslow Hall’).
Tring Park Mansion - believed to be the original Wren design.
Further owners followed until, in 1786, the estate was acquired by London banker Sir Drummond Smith who made extensive changes to the park and to the house, which until then had remained true to Wren’s design.  In 1823 the manor was sold to William Kay, a Manchester textile magnate.  Kay never occupied the mansion, preferring to remain at the centre of things in London, and he let it continuously to his relatives and other tenants, including Nathan Mayer Rothschild with whom he may have become acquainted during Rothschild’s time in the textile trade in Manchester.
Tring Park Mansion, North Front.
Nathan Mayer first rented Tring Park Mansion as a summer retreat in the 1830s.  The construction of the London & Birmingham Railway had reached Tring in October 1837, giving, by the standards of the time, quick and comfortable access to the Capital and its financial markets.  In September of the following year the line was completed throughout, making Birmingham and the North-West of England similarly accessible.  It is probable that these rapid transport communications influenced the Rothschilds in their choice of Tring as a base for their hunting and shooting pastimes, and eventually their purchase of the Tring Park estate when it became available.
Entrance gates, long since removed, from the High Street.
Tring Park Mansion remained in the Kay family until 1872 when it was sold at auction for £230,000, Lionel Nathan de Rothschild being the buyer.  With the mansion came its 3,643 acre estate, which included the manors of Miswell, Hastoe, Dunsley and Willstone.  Following Lionel’s death in 1879, the estate was inherited by his eldest son Nathaniel who was created Lord Rothschild of Tring in 1885, the first Jewish peer to sit in the House of Lords.
The Morning Room.
Using designs by the Rothschild’s family architect, George Devey [4], Nathaniel made considerable extensions and improvements to the house.  These included encasing Wren’s design in French Renaissance dress, faced with red brick and lavish stone dressings, dormer windows, and slated mansard roofs.
Bucks Herald, 30th October 1897.
The Prince of Wales’ visit to Tring Park, Lord Rothschild’s beautiful seat . . . . took place on Saturday, and was the occasion of a great and loyal demonstration by the people of Tring in honour of Lord Rothschild and his Royal guest.  Tring Park mansion, a palatial and substantial structure, built more than 200 years ago, but much improved and enlarged by the present owner, stands in a grandly-wooded deer park among the Chiltern Hills . . . . The Estate is managed upon the most modern principles.  The Tring Park Jersey herd and the Hampshire Down flock occupy a prominent position in the estimation of judges and purchasers.  The dairy, the stud farm, and other establishments, under the energetic control of Mr. Richardson-Carr, are models of what can be accomplished by the judicious employment of capital.

“This was the Prince’s first visit to Tring, though he has passed through it several times when visiting other members of the Rothschild family in the district . . . . the last time was in January, 1884, when his Royal Highness was visiting Halton as the guest of Mr. Alfred de Rothschild . . . . During his visit the Prince paid a visit of inspection to the Hon. Walter Rothschild’s zoological museum, and evinced much interest in his natural history collection of more than European renown.  A visit was paid to the Home Farm, where the Jersey cattle and shire horses were paraded before H.R.H., who noticed particularly Paxton, a magnificent three-year-old grey horse.  In the afternoon he drove to Aston Clinton, and paid the Dowager Lady Rothschild a visit.  On Monday the party shot over the reservoirs at Wilstone and Marsworth, a bungalow having been erected and other arrangements made for their accommodation.  As the reservoirs cover about 500 acres, and as the water-fowl are carefully preserved, the eight guns were pretty busy, and some capital sport was had.

“The Prince left Tring Park at 3.30 on Monday afternoon, in order to travel to London by a special [train] at 3.40, a vast crowd assembling outside the avenue to give him a parting cheer, and to wish him, as did the motto on the avenue gates, God Speed.”
To Nathaniel’s great disappointment his eldest son Lionel Walter had little interest in the family’s banking business –  Walter’s obsessive interest lay in zoology, a field in which he gained international recognition.  Despite his disappointment, in 1892, as a 21st birthday present, Nathaniel presented Walter with a museum building on the edge of Tring Park in which to house his collection.  When Walter died in 1937, he left his collections, the museum building,  its contents and the surrounding land to the Natural History Museum in London.  Part of the Natural History Museum at Tring is now open to the public.
Nathaniel Mayer Rothschild
1st Baron Rothschild GCVO, PC (1840-1915
Lionel Walter Rothschild
2nd Baron Rothschild FRS (1868-1937)
Having eventually recognized that his son was unsuited to life as a banker and head of the family, in due course Nathaniel disinherited Walter in favour of his younger son, Charles.  Accordingly, when Nathaniel died the house and estate passed to Charles and, on his death in 1923, to his son Nathaniel Mayer Victor.  On Walter’s death in 1937, Victor became the 3rd Baron Rothschild of Tring, but he had no interest in maintaining the estate.  Thus, from the early 1920s onwards the estate -  which consisted of farms, smallholdings, allotments, and cottages and shops in Tring and the surrounding area - was sold piecemeal, the Rothschild family retaining the mansion and some of its parkland.

During the Second World War the mansion was used by N. M. Rothschild & Sons, when more than half of the clerical staff together with the current records were moved to the comparative safety of Tring Park.  When peace returned the mansion was sold, eventually becoming the ‘Tring Park School for the Performing Arts’, a use it retains today.