Tring & District Local History & Museum Society

Registered Charity No.  1053276

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he had been Member of Parliament for Aylesbury since 1865 and the Rothschild family had also acquired a number of estates in the area.

In 1872 the family moved to Tring with their son Walter Rothschild, aged four; their daughter Evelina and second son Charles Rothschild were both born at Tring. The family divided their time between their London home at 148 Piccadilly and Tring Park. Lady Rothschild preferred to remain at Tring with her children throughout much of the year and quite often her husband would be on his own at the sprawling London residence, surrounded by dust-sheeted furniture.

Sir Nathaniel became Lord Rothschild in 1885, the first Jewish peer raised to the House of Lords, just as his father, Lionel, had been the first Jewish Member of Parliament to sit in the House of Commons. Lionel was first elected in 1847 but was unable to take his seat in the Commons for another eleven years until the discriminatory legislation against Jews was removed.

During the late 1880s Lord Rothschild began making significant structural alterations to the house: in 1889 work began on the Smoking Room extension to designs by George Devey and the whole house was refaced in red brick with white ashlar dressing. The conservatory and orangery were demolished (thereby removing the last tenuous link with Nell Gwynne) and the foundations used for the base of the new Smoking Room. In the same year the whole roof was lifted and a full-height top floor was inserted, replacing the mezzanine, with a slate Mansard roof complete with its French-style finials and a ten-foot gilded weathervane.

Lord Rothschild continued to make alterations to Tring Park and these included the controversial rebuilding of the London Lodge in 1895 when two pavilions, believed to be part of Wren’s original design and which originally stood on either side of the London Road, were demolished. Despite local protests, the buildings were razed and replaced with a mock-Tudor cottage ( 51°47'40.58"N 0°39'26.21"W ) designed by Tring architect William Huckvale who rebuilt many of the estate’s properties in and around Tring. The cupola from one of the Wren pavilions was removed and mounted on the stable block designed by James Gibbs. The cottage still stands today and is partially visible from London Road, beyond a tall brick wall from the same period.

Other alterations to the house included the remodelling of the entrance (east) front where the portico, which had originally faced onto the former Aylesbury to Berkhamsted road through the park, was demolished and a new porte-cochère was built on the north front. The east front was rebuilt with a shallow bow window rising through all three floors and the former entrance hall enclosed by large glass doors at the first set of columns to form another reception room. This room, the Morning Room, originally had a double-height ceiling but was given a massive barrel-vault in order to reduce the visible height of the room.

By the time Walter Rothschild had become a young man, it was clear that he had no interest in the family’s banking business. His passion was zoology and it was to this end that he devoted his life’s work. The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum was built in the grounds in 1889 as a twenty-first birthday present. This housed his massive collection of stuffed mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. In 1892 the museum opened to the public and three new wings were added between 1906 and 1912 – the Bird Wing, the Library and the Lepidoptera Hall – in order to accommodate the huge numbers of specimens, amassed by Walter personally and the collectors he employed on his behalf.

Walter's father had always disapproved of his son's consuming interest in zoology and after a particularly serious disagreement – principally with regard to Walter’s inability to control his finances concerning the museum – he disinherited his elder son. Whilst the title would pass to Walter, the house and estate were all left to his younger brother, Charles.

Although disinherited, Walter had been by no means cut off without a penny: his father had given him a capital sum of a million pounds to live off. In 1908 this was an indescribably large amount and by the time of his father's death in 1915, Walter’s finances were well in hand and he was able to mount overseas expeditions to locate new and exotic specimens as well as to purchase existing collections wholesale. The museum’s displays included two-and-a-half million butterflies, set under glass, over three hundred thousand bird skins and copious specimens of mammals and reptiles. These remain to this day supreme examples of Victorian taxidermy.

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History of Tring Park Mansion

(From Doomesday to the Present)