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Mentmore estate, Buckinghamshire

In 1836, Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s widow, Hannah, bought a few acres of land at Mentmore in Buckinghamshire for her sons so that they could take healthy exercise away from the city.  In 1850, Nathan's son Mayer Amschel de Rothschild (1818-1874) bought the Manor of Mentmore for £12,400 and commissioned Joseph Paxton and his son-in-law George Stokes to build him a house.  The resulting plans, while Jacobean in style, incorporated the most modern features, including a huge central grand hall with glazed roof, plate-glass windows and central heating. 

Mayer died in 1874 leaving Mentmore to his only child, Hannah.  Hannah later married Lord Rosebery, and the house remained in the Rosebery family until it was put on the market in 1977. The auction of the contents in the same year was one of the major sales of the century.

In 1978, The Maharishi Foundation in the UK purchased Mentmore Towers for ₤240,000 for use as a headquarters and college. It was the headquarters of the Natural Law Party and campus of Maharishi University of Natural Law. By 1997, the movement was seeking a larger facility and placed Mentmore on the market for ₤10 million. It sold two years later for ₤3 million.

Archive sources

The Rothschild Archive holds very little original material concerning Mentmore Towers. A  white vellum-bound volume 'Mentmore', dated 1883, number ten of a limited edition of 50, itemising the collection at Mentmore of Mayer de Rothschild, by his daughter, Hannah will be found in The Rushbrooke Collection, ref 000/848/16/2. A  photograph of the exterior of Mentmore from the gardens, from the collections of the National Monuments Record will be found in 000/529, a collection of research papers of Miriam Rothschild concerning her book Rothschild Gardens

N M Rothschild & Sons: Estates Department, Mentmore estate, receipts and invoices, 1856-1873

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Expenditure on the Mentmore estate was recorded in a series of receipts and invoices retained in the papers of the Estates Department of the London bank. Reflecting Mayer's love of all things equestrian, this series yields a great deal of information about payments for harnesses and other equipment as well as his general living expenses. Go to N M Rothschild & Sons: Estates Department »

Estates: Mentmore estate, building contract, 1851

000/198, 1 item

Modern photocopy of the contract for the building of Mentmore, Mayer de Rothschild and George Myers, contractor, of Lambeth, 1851. Acquired before the original was deposited with the Archive, the original will be found in The Rushbrooke Collection, ref 000/848/16/1.

Estates: Mentmore estate, copies of Census returns, 1861; 1871; 1881; 1891; 1901

000/1236, 1 file

Copies of original register and typed transcripts of Census returns: Mentmore, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901.

Estates: Mentmore estate, deeds and papers, 1878

000/109,

Papers of the Trustees of Baron and Baroness Mayer de Rothschild, including schedule of deeds relating to title of Mentmore estate, 1878; schedule of deeds relating to title of property in Mentmore, Cheddington and Newmarket, 1878.

Estates: Mentmore estate, indentures and admissions, 1757; 1796; 1805; 1824; 1830; 1857; 1864; 1870

000/229, 1 volume

Mentmore estate: three indentures and five admissions bound into leather volume. Included in the indenture dated 5 October 1870, is a plan of Mentmore estate.

Estates: Mentmore estate, Ordnance Survey Photo Mosaic Sheet, Mentmore, 1947

000/1228, 1 item

Black and white aerial photographs, reproduced from the Ordnance Survey Air Photo Mosaic Sheets (1944-1951) 1:10,560, held at the British Library: Mentmore. August 1947. (42/91 NW).

Estates: Mentmore estate, photographs, c.1860-c.1900

000/284, 000/1168, 38 items

Photographs believed to be from the collection of Baroness Mayer de Rothschild and Hannah Rosebery, 1860s-1900s, including images of: Château de Pregny; Hythe Life Boat; Hever Castle; Mentmore interiors. 000/1168 is a photograph of Hannah de Rothschild's studio at Mentmore, 1871,  From an album of architectural studies of Mentmore in a private collection.

Also included in this accession are a series of photographs by Piggotts of Leighton Buzzard relating to the Industrial & Arts Exhibition, May-June 1875 which was held at the Corn Exchange, Leighton Buzzard.  The event had the patronage of many of the local gentry, MPs and also members of the Rothschild family (who amongst other things provided numerous exhibits and also opened up Mentmore House for visitors). 

Estates: Mentmore estate, plans, 1843

000/200/1, 1 volume

A single coloured plan, ‘Stables for a hunting stud designed for a particular situation at Mentmore for the Baron M.A. de Rothschild, by J.C. Loudin, August 1843 will be found pasted in this volume, which otherwise exclusively contains plans and engravings relating to the Gunnersbury Park estate.

Estates: Mentmore estate, postcards, c.1906

000/2349, 3 items

Three antique postcards of Mentmore Towers, c.1906: The entrance Mentmore;  Mentmore from the SW; Famous Old Gardens, the Italian Garden, Mentmore.

Estates: Mentmore estate, postcards, c.1985

000/443, 4 items

Four postcards: Mentmore;  Bronze statue of a horse, ‘King Tom’; copy of picture ‘Ladas, after winning the 1894 Derby, with HRH the Prince of Wales’;  copy of picture, ‘The present Earl and his family, by Carlos Sancha’; colour postcard of Mentmore during the time it was occupied by the Maharishi University of Natural Law. During this period (c.1978-1997), the house was open to the public on Sunday afternoons.

Estates: Mentmore estate, secondary sources, 1997

000/1411, 1 item

Country Life, May 15 1997 Gardens Souvenir Issue: including an article on the sale of Mentmore.

Estates: Mentmore estate, The Mentmore sale, ’SAVE’ Mentmore campaign, 1977

000/2340, 1 item

Copy of 'Save Mentmore for the Nation' published by SAVE Britain's Heritage, February 1977. (Davron Press, London). Includes short essays on the house and contents and black and white photographs. Published as part of the public campaign to ensure that Mentmore and its contents were preserved for the nation; this campaign ultimately failed.

Estates: Mentmore estate, The Mentmore sale, catalogues, 1977

000/2315, 5 volumes

In 1977 came one of the last true country house sales: Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire. When the Earl of Rosebery, faced with death duties, offered the house and the collection to the nation in the 1970s for £2 million, the Labour government refused it and demanded settlement. The nine-day sale of the contents by Sotheby’s in 1977 raised £6 million. The contents included some of the finest art and objects of the past five centuries. Catalogue of the Mentmore sale, volumes 1-5 (Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co, 1977), with piece lists of lot valuations:

- Vol 1: Furniture, tapestries and clocks
- Vol 2: Works Of Art And Silver
- Vol 3: Porcelain
- Vol 4: Paintings, Prints & Drawings
- Vol 5: General Contents of the House (2 copies)
- Estate Agents' Sales Leaflet describing the house and grounds