This article is about the house in England. For the house in Germantown, Pennsylvania, see Cliveden (Benjamin Chew House).
View looking north from the Ring in the Parterre showing Terrace Pavilion and Clock Tower to the left with Lower Terrace and Borghese Balustrade below

Cliveden (pronounced /ˈklɪvdən/) is an Italianate mansion and estate on the Berkshire/Buckinghamshire border. It crowns an outlying ridge of the Chiltern Hills by the hilltop village of Taplow, just 2 miles (3.2 km) from the riverside town of Maidenhead. Set on banks 40 metres (130 ft) above the River Thames, its grounds slope down to the river. The site has been home to an earl, three countesses, two dukes, a Prince of Wales and the Viscounts Astor.

As home of Nancy Astor, the house was the meeting place of the Cliveden set of the 1920s and 1930s — a group of political intellectuals. Later, during the 1960s, it became the setting for key events of the notorious Profumo Affair (a scandal that led to the collapse of the Conservative government in 1964). During the 1970s, it was occupied by Stanford University, which used it as an overseas campus. Today owned by the National Trust, the house is leased as a five-star hotel run by London & Regional Properties.

Cliveden means "valley among cliffs"[1] and refers to the dene (valley) which cuts through part of the estate, east of the house. Cliveden has been spelled differently over the centuries, some of the variations being Cliffden, Clifden, Cliefden and Clyveden.[2] The 375 acres (152 ha) gardens and woodlands are open to the public, together with parts of the house on certain days. There have been three houses on this site: the first, built in 1666, burned down in 1795 and the second house (1824) was also destroyed by fire, in 1849. The present Grade I listed house was built in 1851 by the architect Charles Barry for George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke of Sutherland.

Present house

The north front

Designed by Sir Charles Barry in 1851 to replace a house previously destroyed by fire, the present house is a blend of the English Palladian style and the Roman Cinquecento.[3] The Victorian three-storey mansion sits on a 400-foot (120 m) long, 20-foot (6.1 m) high brick terrace or viewing platform (visible only from the south side) which dates from the mid-17th century. The exterior of the house is rendered in Roman cement, with terracotta additions such as balusters, capitals, keystones and finials. The roof of the mansion is meant for walking on, and there is a circular view, above the tree-line, of parts of Buckinghamshire and Berkshire including Windsor Castle to the south.[4]

Below the balustraded roofline is a Latin inscription which continues around the four sides of the house and recalls its history; it was composed by the then prime minister William Ewart Gladstone. On the west front it reads: POSITA INGENIO OPERA CONSILIO CAROLI BARRY ARCHIT A MDCCCLI, which translated reads: "The work accomplished by the brilliant plan of architect Charles Barry in 1851."[5] The main contractor for the work was Lucas Brothers.[6] In 1984–86 the exterior of the mansion was overhauled and a new lead roof installed by the National Trust, while interior repairs were carried out by Cliveden Hotel.[7]

In 2013, restoration work on the main house was carried out including the restoration of 300 sash windows and 20 timber doors.[8]


The Hall showing the fireplace and portrait of Nancy Astor

The interior of the house today is very different from its original appearance in 1851–52. This is mainly due to the 1st Lord Astor, who radically altered the interior layout and decoration c. 1894–95. Whereas Barry's original interior for the Sutherlands had included a square entrance-hall, a morning room and a separate stairwell, Lord Astor wanted a more impressive entrance to Cliveden so he had all three rooms knocked into one large one (the Great Hall). His aim was to make the interior as much like an Italian palazzo as possible, which would complement the exterior. The ceiling and walls were panelled in English oak, with Corinthian columns and swags of carved flowers for decoration, all by architect Frank Pearson. The staircase newel posts are ornamented with carved figures representing previous owners (e.g. Buckingham and Orkney) by W.S. Frith. Astor installed a large sixteenth-century fireplace, bought from a Burgundian chateau which was being pulled down. To the left of the fireplace is a portrait of Nancy, Lady Astor by the American portraitist John Singer Sargent. The room was and still is furnished with eighteenth-century tapestries and suits of armour. Originally the floor was covered with Minton encaustic tiles (given to the Sutherlands by the factory) but Nancy Astor had them removed in 1906 and the present flagstones laid.[9] Above the staircase is a painted ceiling by French artist Auguste Hervieu which depicts the Sutherlands' children painted as the four seasons. This is the only surviving element of Barry's 18512 interior and it is believed that Lord Astor considered it too beautiful to remove.

The French Dining Room

The French Dining Room is so called because the 18th-century Rococo panelling (or boiseries) came from the Château d'Asnières near Paris, a château which was leased to Louis XV and his mistress Madame de Pompadour as a hunting lodge. When the panelling came up for sale in Paris in 1897, the 1st Lord Astor recognised that it would exactly fit this room at Cliveden. The gilded panelling on a turquoise ground contains carvings of hares, pheasants, hunting dogs and rifles. The console tables and buffet were made in 1900 to match the room. The main dining room of the house until the 1980s, today it is a private dining room with views over the Parterre and Thames.

The second largest room on the ground floor, after the Great Hall, was the original drawing room which today is used as the hotel's main dining room and also has river views.[10]

Also on the ground floor is the library, panelled in cedar wood, which the Astors used to call the "cigar box",[11] and, next door, Nancy Astor's boudoir. Upstairs there are a total of 10 bedroom suites divided equally over two floors. The East wing was and still is guest accommodation, whereas the West wing was domestic offices that were converted into more bedrooms in 1994. The National Trust tour only includes the Great Hall and French Dining Room.

Clock tower

The nearby 100-foot (30m) clock tower was added in 1861 and is the work of the architect Henry Clutton. As a functioning water tower it still provides water for the house today. It is rendered in Roman cement like the rest of the house, and features four clock faces framed by gilded surrounds and a half open staircase on its north side. It was described by the architectural critic Nicholas Pevsner as "the epitome of Victorian flamboyance and assertiveness."[12] The tower is topped with a modern reproduction of Augustin Dumont's 19th century winged male figure Le Génie de la Liberté (the Spirit of Liberty). The original is atop the July Column in the Place de la Bastille, Paris. This replaces two earlier versions, the first having fallen from the tower during a storm in the 1950s.[13] The new statue is made of bronze and was created using Dumont's original mould from the 1860s found in a museum in Semur-en-Auxois, France.[13] It measures 2.2 metres in height, is covered in two layers of 23.5 carat gold leaf and cost a total of £68,000.[13] It is an allegorical sculpture which holds the torch of civilization in its right hand and the broken chain of slavery in its left. It was affixed to the tower in spring 2012.[13]


Duke of Buckingham and early history

George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham

Cliveden stands on the site of a house built in 1666 designed by architect William Winde as the home of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. But before Buckingham's purchase the land was owned by the Mansfield family and before that to the de Clyveden family.[14]

The details are recorded in a document compiled by William Waldorf Astor in 1894 called The Historical Descent of Cliveden. It shows that in 1237 the land was owned by Geoffrey de Clyveden and by 1300 it had passed to his son, William, who owned fisheries and mills along the Cliveden Reach stretch of the Thames and at nearby Hedsor.

The 1666 house. Only the arcaded terrace remains today. From Colen Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus, c.1717.

The document also shows that in 1569 a lodge existed on the site along with 50 acres (200,000 m2) of land and was owned by Sir Henry Manfield and later his son, Sir Edward. In 1573, there were two lodges on 160 acres (650,000 m2) of treeless chalk escarpment above the Thames. It was on this impressively high but exposed site that Buckingham chose to build the first Cliveden house.

Buckingham pulled down the earlier buildings and chose William Winde as his architect. Winde designed a four-storey house above an arcaded terrace. Today, the terrace is the only feature of Buckingham's house to survive the 1795 fire. Although the Duke's intention was to use Cliveden as a "hunting box" he later housed his mistress Anna, Countess of Shrewsbury there. In the Duke's Garden, immediately to the east of the house, flints have been laid in the lawn in the pattern of a rapier with the date 1668 to commemorate the duel between the Duke and his mistress's husband Lord Shrewsbury.[15] The event which took place at Barn Elms near London resulted in Shrewsbury dying of his wounds.[15] A contemporary account of Buckingham's antics with Anna is recounted by Samuel Pepys in his diary of the period.

John Evelyn, another contemporary diarist, visited the Duke at Cliveden on the 22nd of July 1679 and recorded the following impression in his Diary:

"I went to Clifden (sic) that stupendous natural Rock, Wood & Prospect of the Duke of Buckinghams, & building of extraordinary expense... tis a romantic object & the place altogether answers the most poetical description that can be made of a solitude, precipice, prospect & whatever can contribute to a thing so very like their imagination. The house stands somewhat like Frascati... on the platforme (terrace) is a circular view of the utmost verge of the Horizon which with the serpentining of the Thames is admirably surprising... the Cloisters, Descents, Gardens & avenue through the wood august and stately."[16]

In the 18th century

1st Earl of Orkney

After Buckingham died in 1687, the house remained empty until the estate was purchased in 1696 by George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney, a soldier and colonial official. The Earl employed the architect Thomas Archer to add two new "wings" to the house, connected by curved corridors. Although an almost identical arrangement exists today, these are later reconstructions, the originals having been destroyed in the fire of 1795. All that remains of Archer's work inside the house today is a staircase in the West wing.

Orkney's contributions to the gardens can still be seen today, most notably the Octagon Temple and the Blenheim Pavilion, both designed by the Venetian architect Giacomo Leoni. The landscape designer Charles Bridgeman was also commissioned to devise woodland walks and carve a rustic turf amphitheatre out of the cliff-side.

Frederick, Prince of Wales with his sisters at Kew, c.1733 - now in the National Trust collection, but hanging in the Breakfast Room at Kew Palace[17]

Countesses of Orkney

Orkney died in 1737, and Cliveden passed to his daughter Anne, 2nd Countess of Orkney (suo jure), then to Anne's daughter and grand-daughter, the 3rd and 4th Countesses. They owned Cliveden until 1824, and from 1751 to 1795 usually resided at Cliveden with their families. On the night of 20 May 1795, the house caught fire and burned down. The cause of the fire was thought to have been a servant knocking over a candle.[18] The site was sold in 1824.

Frederick, Prince of Wales

From 1737 to 1751, the estate was leased to Frederick, Prince of Wales (son of George II and father of George III).[19] After Frederick fell out with his father, Kew and Cliveden became his refuges from life at the royal court, becoming family homes for his wife Augusta and their children.

During the Prince's tenure of the house, on 1 August 1740, Rule, Britannia! (an aria by the English composer Thomas Arne) was first performed in public, in the cliff-side amphitheatre at Cliveden. It was played as part of a masque to celebrate the third birthday of the Prince's daughter Augusta. It is believed that it was while playing cricket in the grounds at Cliveden in 1751 that the Prince received a blow to the chest from a batted ball - it had been thought this caused an infection which proved fatal,[18] but it is now believed he died from a cold followed by a pulmonary embolism[20][21] After his death, Frederick's family retained Kew but left Cliveden.

In the 19th century

Sir George Warrender

After the fire of 1795, the house remained a ruin for the first quarter of the 19th century. In 1824, the estate was purchased by Sir George Warrender, 4th Baronet. To rebuild Cliveden, Warrender selected William Burn, a Scottish architect, and decided on a design for a two-storey mansion with entertaining on a grand scale in mind.

2nd Duke of Sutherland

A nineteenth-century engraving of the 1851 house from the parterre

Warrender died in 1849 and the house was sold to the Sutherland family, headed by the second Duke. Sutherland had been in possession of the estate for only a few months when the house burned down for the second time in its history. The cause this time appears to have been negligence on the part of the decorators.[22]

The Duke was prompt in commissioning the architect Charles Barry to rebuild Cliveden in the style of an Italianate villa. Barry, whose most famous project is arguably the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, was inspired by the outline of the two earlier houses for his design. The third (and present) house on the site was completed in 1851-52, and its exterior appearance has little changed since then. The 100-foot (30 m)-tall clock tower, which is actually a water tower (still working to this day) was added in 1861 by the architect Henry Clutton. Also around this time another architect, George Devey, was commissioned to build half-timbered cottages on the estate along with a dairy and boathouse.

After the duke's death in 1861, his widow Harriet continued to live at the house for part of the year until her death in 1868, after which it was sold to her son-in-law Hugh Lupus, Earl Grosvenor, later 1st Duke of Westminster.

1st Duke of Westminster

When one lives in Paradise, how hard it must be to ascend in heart and mind to Heaven.
Lady Frederick Cavendish on Cliveden, June 1863.[23]

Westminster was one of the wealthiest Englishmen of the period[24] so it is understandable that he would want to contribute to Cliveden's architecture. Among his additions to the house and gardens are the porte cochère on the north front of the mansion, a new stable block and the dovecote, all designed by Henry Clutton.

In the 20th and 21st century

Astor era

Nancy, Lady Astor by John Singer Sargent. The painting hangs at Cliveden.

In 1893, the estate was purchased by a very wealthy American, William Waldorf Astor (later 1st Lord Astor), who made sweeping alterations to the gardens and the interior of the house, but lived at Cliveden as a recluse after the early death of his wife. He gave Cliveden to his son Waldorf on the occasion of his marriage to Nancy Langhorne in 1906 and moved to Hever Castle.

The young Astors used Cliveden for entertaining on a lavish scale.[25] The combination of the house, its setting and leisure facilities offered on the estate—boating on the Thames, horse riding, tennis, swimming, croquet and fishing—made Cliveden a destination for film stars, politicians, world-leaders, writers and artists. The heyday of entertaining at Cliveden was between the two World Wars when the Astors held regular weekend house parties. Guests at the time included: Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Amy Johnson, F.D. Roosevelt, H.H. Asquith, T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), A.J. Balfour and the writers Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and Edith Wharton. The tradition of high-profile guests visiting the house continues to this day, largely due to the house's conversion into a hotel.[26]

There is a ghastly unreality about it all ... I enjoy seeing it. But to own it, to live here, would be like living on the stage of the Scala theatre in Milan.
Harold Nicolson after a visit to Cliveden in 1936.[27]

Also at this time the entertainer Joyce Grenfell, who was Nancy Astor's niece, lived in a cottage on the estate.[28] She also entertained injured troops in the hospital on the estate during World War II.

Cliveden War Cemetery in the Cliveden grounds

At the outbreak of World War I, Waldorf Astor offered the use of some of the grounds to the Canadian Red Cross for the building of a hospital—the HRH Duchess of Connaught Hospital—which was dismantled at the end of the hostilities. In September 1939 with the outbreak of World War II Waldorf Astor again offered the use of the land at a rent of one shilling per year to the Canadian Red Cross and the Canadian Red Cross Memorial Hospital was built to the designs of Robert Atkinson. After the war the hospital's main focus was as a nursing school, a maternity unit and a rheumatology unit until the hospital closed in the early 1980s.

Attached to the military hospital and within the grounds was established Cliveden War Cemetery. There are 42 Commonwealth war graves, 40 from World War I (mostly Canadians) and two from World War II, besides two American service war graves from the first war.[29]

In 1942, the Astors gave Cliveden to the National Trust with the proviso that the family could continue to live in the house for as long as they wished. Should this cease, they expressed the wish that the house be used "for promoting friendship and understanding between the peoples of the United States and Canada and the other dominions."[30] With the gift of Cliveden, the National Trust also received from the Astors one of their largest endowments[31] (£250,000 in 1942 which is equivalent to £10,507,997[32] today). The Astors ceased to live at Cliveden in 1968, shortly after the Profumo Affair and Bill Astor's death.

Cliveden Hotel

In 1984, Blakeney Hotels (later Cliveden Hotel Ltd) acquired the lease to the house. Led by chairman John Lewis and managing director John Tham (husband of Railway Children actress Jenny Agutter) they restored and refurbished the interior.[33] Rooms are furnished with Edwardian antiques and the house is run in a similar style as it would have been when Nancy Astor was chatelaine.

The Pavilion Spa. The outdoor pool was a key location in the Profumo Affair.

In 1990, they added the indoor swimming pool and spa treatment rooms in the walled garden, complementing the existing outdoor pool. Also in 1990, a new 100-year lease was granted to run from 1984.[34] In 1994 the conversion of the West wing from domestic offices to provide more bedrooms and two boardrooms (Churchill and Macmillan) was completed.[35] There are 37 bedrooms in total, all of which are named after previous owners and guests (e.g., Buckingham, Westminster).[36] In addition to the Terrace Dining room, there are a further four private dining rooms. Three rooms are licensed for civil ceremonies and each year many couples are married at Cliveden.[36] The hotel also lease Spring Cottage by the Thames, one of the key places in the Profumo Affair, and offer it as self-contained accommodation.[36]

The hotel was listed on the London Stock Exchange for a period of time in the 1990s (as Cliveden Plc).[33] This company was bought in 1998 by Destination Europe, a consortium led by billionaire Microsoft CEO Bill Gates.[37] In the early years of the 21st century the lease was acquired by von Essen Hotels. In 2007, Cliveden Hotel claimed to offer the "world's most expensive sandwich" at £100. The von Essen Platinum Club Sandwich was confirmed by Guinness World Records in 2007 to be the most expensive sandwich commercially available.[38] Cliveden was the "jewel in the crown" of Von Essen Hotels when the company collapsed in 2011.[39]

The lease to Cliveden Hotel was then purchased in February 2012 by the property developers Richard and Ian Livingstone, owners of London & Regional Properties, (also the new owners of the next door 220 acre estate called Dropmore Park) who placed it under the management of Andrew Stembridge from Chewton Glen.[40] In 2015 Natalie Livingstone, the wife of Ian Livingstone, published the The Mistresses of Cliveden, a history of some of the female occupants of the house.[41] In January 2015 the hotel closed for one month to carry out a refurbishment of the interior and for the National Trust to repair the roof.[42] In October 2015 Cliveden was announced as the AA Hotel of the Year (England) for 2015/2016.

The hotel's insignia is that of the Sutherland family and consists of a coronet with interlaced "S"s and acanthus leaves. It can be found on radiator grills in parts of the house.[43] The hotel's motto is "Nothing ordinary ever happened here, nor could it."[36]

Gardens and grounds

The parterre seen from the terrace, looking south, with the restored 19th-century style planting

The estate extends to 375 acres (1.52 km2) of which about 180 acres (0.73 km2) comprise the gardens, the rest being woodland and paddocks. The gardens are listed Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.[44]


The formal parterre to the south of the house is one of the largest in Europe at 4 acres (16,000 m2).[45] and is best viewed from the 20-foot (6.1m) high terrace on the south side of the mansion. This part of the garden has received the most attention over the centuries. The first arranging of the large plateau to the south of the house took place c.1723 during George Hamilton, Earl of Orkney's ownership.[46] Although he had previously commissioned plans for elaborate parterre schemes from Claude Desgots, the nephew of André LeNôtre (both designers had previously worked at Versailles), Orkney eventually chose a much simpler plan involving an open expanse of lawn surrounded by raised gravel walks and double rows of elm trees.[47] At the far end there was (and still is) a sunken feature in the turf where Orkney's horses were exercised in a form of open-air manège.[48] Orkney referred to the garden as his "Quaker parterre" because of its simplicity.[49] The parterre endured in this form until the mid 19th-century when the estate was owned by the Duke of Sutherland and by which time the garden had been neglected. It was described by the Duke's son Lord Ronald Gower as "a prairie...a huge field of grass and wild flowers."[50] The Duke commissioned both Charles Barry (who had rebuilt the mansion after the second fire) and John Fleming (the head gardener) to produce designs for a complex parterre of flower beds. Fleming's design, which featured two sets of eight interlocking wedge-shaped beds, was chosen and is the template for what can be seen today.[47] The beds were planted with a seasonal mix of bulbs, annuals and shrubs such as gladioli, hollyhocks, tulips, pansies and azaleas. Fleming pioneered this style of planting at Cliveden, which was later to be named "carpet-bedding."[47] The Cliveden scheme in the 19th-century is well documented in Fleming's handbook Winter and Spring Flower Gardening (1864). The Trust planted the present clipped yew pyramids at the corners of the beds in 1976.[51] At this time (and for the next three decades)the beds contained a massed-planting effect of silver-evergreen Senecio "Sunshine" and Santolina,[51] but in 2010 the Trust decided to recreate Fleming's original nineteenth-century planting scheme.[52]

Themed gardens

The Italian-style Long Garden consists of topiary in the form of corkscrew-spirals, peacocks and box hedges and was designed by Norah Lindsay in c.1900. The Japanese-style Water Garden was laid out by the 1st Lord Astor in c.1893 and is believed to be the first such oriental-inspired garden in the country.[53] It features a pagoda, on an island, bought from the Bagatelle estate in Paris. The planting there is mostly spring-flowering: cherry trees, bush wisterias and giant gunneras. The original Rose Garden, designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe for the Astor family in the early 1960s has since suffered from rose disease and has been replanted as a "secret" garden of herbaceous plants. The planting in the herbaceous borders in the forecourt was designed in the 1970s by the National Trust advisor Graham Stuart Thomas. The west-facing border features "hot"-coloured flowers (red, yellow, orange) and the east-facing border is planted with "cooler" colours (blue, pink and white).

In 2011, the Trust began an ambitious project to restore the 19th-century Round Garden near the eastern edge of the estate. Originally this is where fruit was grown for the house but since the 1950s it has laid overgrown. The circular garden has a diameter of 250 ft and restoration will include reinstating the paths and wrought iron arches as well as original fruit varieties where possible.[54]


There is a lime tree avenue either side of the main drive to the house. Cliveden holds part of the National Plant Collection of Catalpa.[55] In 1897 the 1st Lord Astor imported a section of a Californian redwood and had it installed in the woods. At 16 ft 6 in (5.03 m) across it is the largest section of a Sequoia gigantea in Britain.[56] The woodlands were first laid out by Lord Orkney in the eighteenth century on what had been barren cliff-top; they were later much restocked by Bill Astor but suffered badly in the Great Storm of 1987. The National Trust continues the re-planting of the beechwoods.


The original Cliveden maze, commissioned by Lord Astor in 1894, has undergone major restoration after having lain overgrown and inaccessible since the 1950s. It was replanted with 1,100 six-foot-tall yew trees covering an area of one-third of an acre (1.2 hectares) and opened to the public in 2011.[57]

Giacomo Leoni's 1735 "Octagon Temple"

Temples, pavilions and follies

The earliest known garden buildings at Cliveden were both designed by Giacomo Leoni for Lord Orkney; the Blenheim Pavilion (c.1727) was built to commemorate Orkney's victory as a general at the Battle of Blenheim.

The Octagon Temple, situated 200 feet above the Thames, was originally designed as a gazebo and grotto but was later converted by the 1st Lord Astor to become the family chapel. The chapel was also adapted into the final resting place for the Astors by William Waldorf Astor in 1893, and now three generations of the Astor family are buried here.[58] Its interior and dome are decorated with colourful mosaics by Clayton and Bell representing religious scenes.[59]

The pagoda in the water garden was made for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867 and was purchased by the 1st Lord Astor from the Bagatelle estate in Paris in 1900.

In the woods there is a small flint folly thought to date from the mid-19th century.

Sculpture collection

Thomas Waldo Story's Fountain of Love inscribed Waldo Story Roma 1897

One of the features of the gardens is the large collection of sculpture, most of it acquired by the 1st Lord Astor from 1893 to 1906.[60] The shell fountain, known as the Fountain of Love, greets visitors at the end of the lime tree avenue up to the house. It was sculpted by Thomas Waldo Story, (American, 1855–1915) in Rome in 1897 and was commissioned by Lord Astor for this site. It features a large Carrara marble shell supporting three life-size female figures attended by cupid. The "Tortoise" fountain near the parterre was also made by T.W. Story at around the same time.

In the forecourt there is a collection of eight marble Roman sarcophagi, some of which date from c.AD 100 and were bought by Lord Astor from Rome.

The Queen Anne Vase at the end of the Long Walk is said to have been given to Lord Orkney by Queen Anne in the 18th century and consists of a tall urn on a plinth decorated with the Greek key pattern.

At the far-end of the parterre is a 20th-century copy of a bronze group entitled The Rape of Proserpina (Italian, c.1565), bought by W.W. Astor from Italy. The original is now housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum.[61]

The well-heads and oil-jars found throughout the gardens came from Venice and Rome respectively.[62]

Borghese balustrade

The largest sculpture in the grounds, technically in two parts, is the 17th-century Borghese Balustrade on the parterre. Purchased by Lord Astor in the late 19th century from the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome, it is crafted from Travertine stone and brick tiles by Giuseppe Di Giacomo and Paolo Massini in c.1618-19. It features seats and balustrading with fountain basins and carved eagles.

"Cliveden snail"

In 2004, a colony of small Mediterranean land snails of the species Papillifera bidens was discovered living on the Borghese Balustrade. Presumably this species, new to the English fauna, was accidentally imported along with the balustrade in the late 19th century, and managed to survive the intervening winters to the present day.[63]

Spring Cottage

The west front of Spring Cottage across the River Thames with the Cliveden beechwoods behind.

This is the largest and most complex of the four timber-framed cottages designed or altered by the architect George Devey along the banks of the river Thames on the Cliveden estate. The first structure on the site was a Gothic-style summerhouse with an octagonal vaulted plaster ceiling designed in 1813 by architect Peter Nicholson for Mary, 4th Countess of Orkney.[64] She was living in one wing of the burnt down mansion at the time of the commission. It was used as a tea house and spa for the many visitors attracted to the nearby mineral springs, which flowed from the chalk cliff above and ran down into the Thames.[64] Nicholson published his designs for the house in his Architectural Dictionary of 1813 in the form of a cross-section of the interior and ceiling projection. In auction particulars dated 1821, which list all structures on the estate, the building is described as a Banqueting house "at the much admired spring",[65] whilst several decades later it was described as an "ornamental fishing villa."[64]

In 1857, the Duke of Sutherland, who had owned Cliveden for eight years, commissioned George Devey to enlarge the existing building into a two-storey cottage.[64] The subsequent alterations were in the vernacular style with brick and stucco walls, fish-scale pattern roof slates, a Gothick-style loggia and a turret above an exterior staircase leading to a balcony.[66] Throughout the remainder of the 19th century the main function of the cottage was as a place of leisure and was frequently used by the Duke's wife Harriet to entertain guests, most notably her friend Queen Victoria.[64]

In 1957, the cottage came to the attention of London osteopath Stephen Ward, who had been hired to treat Bill Astor. He leased the cottage from the Astors for a minimal rent for use as a weekend retreat.[67] Among the guests invited to stay there were London call girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.[67] A chance meeting in 1961 between Keeler and cabinet minister John Profumo (a guest of the Astors) at the Cliveden swimming pool led to what was subsequently called the Profumo Affair which in turn led to the fall of the Macmillan government.[68]

Spring cottage was awarded Grade II listed status in 1986[66] and in 1997 the hotel company which leased Cliveden House from the National Trust also acquired the lease to the cottage.[64] A reported £750,000[64] was spent restoring and refurbishing the dilapidated building before it reopened in 1998 as a self-contained luxury hideaway with the same standards as the nearby five-star hotel itself.[64] The cottage and its garden are not open to the public.

Cliveden Reach

Cliveden Reach, between Cookham Lock and Boulter's Lock, is one of the classic scenic stretches of the Thames. Cliveden House may be accessed by watercraft from the mooring on Cliveden Reach half a mile downstream from Cliveden boathouse. Cliveden Reach is a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and angling. The National Trust offers self-hire boats and guided river cruises.

Film and television

Cliveden is the location or inspiration for scenes in the following film and TV productions.


Cliveden from the River Thames



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  22. N.T. Guide, 1994, p.28.
  23. Quoted in Crathorne, 1995, frontispiece.
  24. N.T. Guide, 1994, p.36.
  25. N.T. Guide, 1994, p.42.
  26. Crathorne, 1995, p.213.
  27. Quoted in N.T. Guide, 1994, p.45.
  28. N.T. Guide, 1994, p.26
  29. CWGC Cemetery Report.
  30. Crathorne 1995
  31. National Trust 1971, p. 10
  32. UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Measure Worth: UK CPI
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  47. 1 2 3 NT Guide, Cliveden, 2012, p.16
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  50. Crathorne, Cliveden, 1995, p.99
  51. 1 2 NT Guide, Cliveden, 1994, p.69
  52. NT website
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  54. NT work in progress page
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  56. National Trust 1994, p. 77
  57. RHS website. Last accessed 16/03/12]
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  62. National Trust 1994, p. 60
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  68. Crathorne, p.185
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Coordinates: 51°33′31″N 0°41′18″W / 51.55850°N 0.68823°W / 51.55850; -0.68823

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