Waddesdon Manor

26 June 2016

Friday was a day of very mixed emotions.

On the one hand my lovely friend Andy, of Rob and Andy, celebrated his birthday (which was actually the day before, but details, dear reader, details!) by inviting me to join them for a day at Waddesdon Manor House.

On the other hand, we Brits (by a very narrow majority it has to be said) determined to leave the EU and hurl ourselves into what could be decades of catastrophic economic turmoil.  And if I am honest, I feel a significant number of people who voted out did so on the basis not of the economics or the politics related to being out of Europe, but out of a basic underlying level of 'soft' racism, for want of a better term.

Don't get me wrong - all racism is wrong, but I mean that people have been whipped up into a frenzy relating to immigration without having any clear idea of what that means and envisage something completely divorced from reality! 

And I am very sad about all of that.

But this is a blog about life and art - so lets get back to the art. 

And it might make us all feel a bit better!

So, to my shame, while I had heard of Waddesdon I had never been there, despite the fact that it is only about half an hour from my old 'home from home' at Winslow.

And it has  permanent gallery space housed in the old stables, which this summer is hosting an exhibition by the ceramist Kate Malone.

Again, my complete ignorance, because despite my close friendship with Rob and Andy, themselves ceramists, I was in blissful ignorance of Kate Malone. 

And she makes spectacular pots! And works with wondrous glazes. 

She has put together an exhibition 'inspired by Waddesdon' - I'll come to Waddesdon later, but for now you just need to know that it houses a wonderful collection of Sevres Porcelain. There is a wonderful little film on Youtube documenting the making of this collection.


I am reliably informed by my friends that Kate Malone is known for her glazes.  And the inside of this magnificent jar demonstrates that perfectly. 

And she puts lots of texture on the outside of some of her pieces. 

And she does quite a few gourds.

This one is decorated with transfers taken from books in the Waddesdon collection.

As well as the larger cultural pieces, there were smaller pieces very much influenced by the sort of pottery the servants would have been using. These I found very accessible and appealing. 

And these two beauties, highly textured, were the centrepiece of the exhibition.

And I loved these smaller textured jars.

You can view the full catalogue here. Or there is a great Pinterest page here. It was a lovely collection and well worth the visit.

So on to the house, set in rather Italianate gardens, you are bused in on a courtesy bus.

The house is like a french chateau in the middle of the English Countryside. We got wet in the gardens (so much rain this June!)

It is very beautiful, but a bit, well, sad.

The house, despite it's appearance, was built by Ferdinand Rothschild in the late 1800s to entertain guests and house his collections. It was never really a 'home'. And while the collection is magnificent, things like the pictures were acquired for who they were by, not because of family history. You get the impression that while he might have been very, very rich and well connected he was never, well, 'happy'.

His guests had magnificent dinners in the most amazing dinning room.

And from the small conservatory at the end you can look all the way down to the mirror at the entrance. The house was clearly designed around some of the mirrors and tapestries etc. 

We found this beautiful piece of English embroidery from the 17th Century in one of the galleries upstairs.

And this enamel work.

And lots of 18th Century Sevres porcelain. 

The bedrooms were opulent, but you could imagine guests staying there.

And in one of the lobbies outside a bedroom we found these hangings - not easy to photograph because of the dark, but all beadwork!

This house was built in the 19th century after all, so the gentlemen has heir smoking room on the first floor. It felt like a gentlemen club!

After the house we dodged the rain and looked at the gardens. 

Magnificent grounds, but if gardens are your thing then I would recommend Coton Manor instead. 

That said, the rose garden was at it's best, if somewhat soggy! 

And there is an interesting aviary with a small bird collection that does some sterling conservation work.

And the birds can admire this fountain!

A great day out, and the gallery is definitely worth a visit. The house is magnificent but perhaps a bit 'sterile'.

And the collecting continues. There are a few contemporary pieces, though I was not wholly bought into the larger artworks on the front drive.  The cupcake didn't really work for me! 

But, if you ever find yourself in the Aylesbury area, I suggest you go and see it for yourself. I would suggest booking on line, as Rob did, because entry to the house is timed (sensible - to keep the visitor numbers spread out) and build in time for lunch. There is a great restaurant! 


  1. The Kate Malone ceramics are amazing and Waddesdon Manor looks wonderful. Sorry about Brexit it strikes terror in my heart to think the almost same thing can happen (Trump) in the USA.

    1. Shirlee - we are thinking of friends across the pond! The World has gone mad! I know Hillary isn't popular but lets hope she can pull it out of the bag - for all our sakes.

      Meanwhile, thank goodness for art!!

  2. Thank you so much for the wonderful tour, you've added a touch of happiness to a very strange time indeed X

  3. I was shocked and sad too - and I think so many people voted 'out' as a protest vote and now regret what they did. On a brighter note, I love the look of Waddesden and that fab ceramics exhibition - I must try and go x

    1. Those 'pots' are truly fab! It is a good day out, and the restaurant was fab!

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