Mentmore

Rebuilt by Baron de Rothschild on completion of Mentmore Towers in the latter half of the 19th century, Mentmore is a pretty village with its mock Tudor houses set on top of a hill. The large village green is surrounded by splendid lime trees, and the views in all directions are quite breathtaking. The church built in the 13th century is set on the highest point in the village with its 15th century tower as a landmark for miles around. It has over the centuries been added to and altered by various builders.

The dominant feature of the village was Mentmore Towers. Baron de Rothschild commissioned George Stokes to design the house, and the building was supervised by Stokes' father Joseph Paxton, who also designed the Crystal Palace. Work began in 1852, and on its completion Mayer Amschel Rothschild had the village of Mentmore rebuilt nearer to the gates of the Towers. No excuse for being late for work then! He also had stables and kennels for the stag hounds built.

Nearly everyone who lived in the village and the nearby villages of Crafton and Ledburn were employed in some capacity on the estate, in the studs, or gardens, the house, or management of the estate. There were very large gardens, with many greenhouses, and hothouses, for the estate was fully self supporting. When the last head gardener arrived, there were 44 full time gardeners. There were at least 10 laundry maids and dairy maids. The dairy was situated on the bend at the bottom of Stag Hill. It is now used as a smallholding.

The unmarried men lived in the Bothy, and there was similar accommodation for the grooms and trainers at Ledburn. Today this is the Hare and Hounds Inn.
One of the most interesting features of Mentmore were the Studs, for many famous racehorses were bred there, including winners of the Derby and the St Leger.

On the death of Baron de Rothschild the estate was inherited by his daughter Hannah. In 1878 she married the fifth Earl of Rosebery who later became Prime Minister. The Roseberys were a very sporting family and continued breeding racehorses right through to the present Earl's father.

When Lord Rosebery died in 1974, Mentmore Towers was offered to the Government of the day for 3 million pounds lock stock and barrel. There was quite a furore when it was turned down. The auction of the house and contents conducted by Sothebys caused much excitement. People came from all over the world to view and buy. The final sum realized was 6 million pounds, unfortunately many of the treasures were taken out of the country.

The Towers was finally sold to, and used as a conference centre for the followers of the Transcendantal Meditation Cult, and in the village as the houses become vacant they are sold off privately. The end of one Era and perhaps the beginning of another.

Article written by members of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes for the publication "The Buckinghamshire Village Book" (1987) and reproduced here with their permission