Waddesdon Manor’s war role remembered in major new exhibition and trail

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Waddesdon is open again after the long winter months, with new exhibitions, events and a 1000 space car park for the benefit of visitors.

Chief executive Sarah Weir OBE welcomed the first visitors on Wednesday, and invited them to enjoy imaginative lace displays, a dedicated First World War exhibition, and to look out for childhood memorabilia on the Rascal Shadows trail, writes Heather Jan Brunt

New season laucnhed at Waddesdon Manor - pictured is the Waddesdon at War exhibition

New season laucnhed at Waddesdon Manor - pictured is the Waddesdon at War exhibition

Ms Weir said: “Today is what Waddesdon is all about. I’ve been in preparation mode since I arrived here in November. Today the house and gardens look beautiful and everything is coming together and people are coming to enjoy it. That is the joy for me.”

Four Waddesdon blue liveried buses transported visitors from the car park to the house.

A new innovation this season will see a set of blinds in each room opened in rotation once a month on the first Wednesday. Not only does this bring light into the rooms, but it enables visitors to enjoy views of the garden from inside the manor.

Waddesdon at War reveals a picture of the house and estate during the dark years of the First World War exploring its effects on the family and staff through leters, photographs and personal items from the archive put together by head archivist Catherine Taylor.

With family members living all over Europe the war put a great strain on relationships.

Ms Taylor said: “There was a real sorrow. Alice de Rothschild who lived at Waddesdon had four nephews living in Vienna at the outbreak of the war. Reading her letters there is a sadness, because they had always been a very close family, that she doesn’t know what is happening to them.”

Many members of staff were called up for war service and Ms Taylor said: “There is a war memorial in the village that has 70 names on it from the First World War. I have identified 15 as workers from the estate, and a further 10 I have yet to confirm may also have worked on the estate.”

Waddesdon was never a family home, the Rothschilds who lived there were childless. But during the Second World War two separate nursery schools were evacuated to the manor with tiny children aged from two to five years.

This brief moment from history is captured in the Rascal Shadows trail put together by Jan Dunning who has placed items , including a suitcase containing a battered and very well loved teddy bear, throughout the house, to celebrate the only time when children lived there.

The house is open Wednesdays to Fridays 12 noon - 4pm and at the weekend 11am-4pm.