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Ascott Estate

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Ascott House, sometimes referred to as simply Ascott, is situated in the hamlet of Ascott near Wing in Buckinghamshire, England.

Ascott House was originally a farm house, built in the reign of James I and known as “Ascott Hall”. It was acquired by Baron Mayer de Rothschild (of the neighbouring Mentmore Towers estate) in 1873. The Rothschild family had begun to acquire vast tracts of land in Buckinghamshire earlier in the century, on which they built a series of large mansions from 1852 onwards. Baron Mayer gave the house at Ascott to his nephew Leopold de Rothschild, who transformed it over the following decades into the substantial, but informal, country house it is today.

At a casual first glance Ascott appears the epitome of a perfect ancient English manor house. However, as is often the case with perfect ancient English manor houses, nothing could be further from the truth. Leopold de Rothschild, whose principal country residence was Gunnersbury Park, used Ascott at first as a hunting box, but realising the limitations imposed by its modest size, in 1874 he employed the architect George Devey to enlarge it. The present half-timbered house is largely the result of that commission. Devey attempted to design a house that rambled as though it had grown and developed over centuries; to some extent he achieved this. The project became a life time work for Devey as the house was continually expanded during the remainder of the 19th century. The rambling and climbing shrubs he envisaged all over the house are no longer there, and this now detracts from the rustic, romantic air the architect wished to create.

The style of architecture which could be described as “English cottage meets Tudor Cheshire Manor house” is informal, the ground floor being of red brick, while the floors above are half timbered. This rustic design no doubt deliberately reflected the house’s original intention as a rural retreat and hunting lodge purely for relaxation and pleasure, and contrasted with the family’s alternative country home, the more classical and thus impressive Gunnersbury Park. Other Rothschild Houses in Buckinghamshire were all designed in the more formal styles of architecture, either the classical renaissance such as Mentmore or that of a French chateau as at Waddesdon Manor. In no way though is the architecture at Ascott intended to faithfully reproduce that of an earlier era. Devey was a forerunner of the Arts and Crafts movement and had developed a rustic style of his own, where huge bay windows provide fine views over the Chiltern Hills, multiple gables of varying heights, and roof lines sweeping to different levels resemble those designed by the more well known Edwin Lutyens, years later in the early 20th century.

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