Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Mentmore Towers is a large English country house in the village of Mentmore in Buckinghamshire. It takes its name both from the village in which it stands, and the fact that house has numerous towers and pinnacles. Historically it was always known as just Mentmore, and by locals and estate staff as 'The Mansion', as is the case at nearby Tring. However, the name Towers seems to have stuck and is the accepted name today. The one-time owner, Lord Rosebery once said: 'Mentmore Towers sounded like a second rate boarding house'. The house is Grade 1 Listed building.
The house was built between 1852 and 1854 by Baron Mayer de Rothschild who needed a house close to London and in close proximity to other Rothschild homes at Tring in Hertfordshire, Ascott, Aston Clinton and later Waddesdon Manor and Halton House. He had slowly since 1846 been buying land in the area. However, it was not until 1850 that he bought the manor and advowson of Mentmore for £12,400 from the trustees of the Harcourt family.
The plans for the new mansion begun in 1852 imitated Wollaton Hall in Nottingham; they were drawn by the well known architect Joseph Paxton, famous for The Crystal Palace (see Plans and interiors of Mentmore).
The old manor house, with its later Georgian facade, which had been built by the Wigg family in the 16th century, became known as the 'Garden House', and became the home of the Rothschild's head gardener; later it became the Estate Office. Today 2004, it is once again the village Manor House.
The Baron and his wife did not live long after the Towers' completion. After the Baroness's death it was inherited by her daughter Hannah, later Countess of Rosebery.
Following her demise in 1890 aged 39 from Bright's Disease, it became the home of her widower Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery, later (in 1894) Prime Minister for two years. The 5th earl gave the estate in the late 1920s to his son Harry, Lord Dalmeny, who in 1929 on the death of his father became the 6th Earl.
Both earls bred numerous winners of classic horse races at the two stud farms on the estate, including five Epsom Derby winners. These were Ladas , Sir Visto , and Cicero from the Crafton Stud on the estate; plus Ocean Swell and Blue Peter from the Mentmore Stud itself.
Following the death of Harry Rosebery in 1973, the executors of his estate, after three years of fruitless discussion with the Government, sold the contents by public auction for many millions of pounds sterling.
The Labour government of James Callaghan would not accept the contents in lieu of inheritance taxes and the house turned into one of England's finest museums of European furniture, object d'art and Victorian era architecture. The government could have purchased the house and contents for £2,000,000 but declined; months later the contents were sold for over £6,000,000. Among the paintings sold were works by Gainsborough, Reynolds, Boucher, Drouais , Moroni and other well known artists, and cabinet makers, including Reisener and Chippendale also represented were the finest German and Russian silver and goldsmiths, and makers of Limoges enamel. This Rothschild/Mentmore collection was said to be one of the finest ever to be assembled in private hands, other than those of the Russian and British royal families.
Transcendental Meditation Centre
The empty house, unaltered since the day it was built, was sold in 1977 for £220,000 to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement in the United Kingdom. It was also through the Maharishi that Mentmore became the British national headquarters of the Natural Law Party in the 1980s and 1990s.
Future as a Hotel
In 1997 Mentmore Towers was sold to a company, now named Mentmore Towers Ltd who, while restoring it, plan to turn it into a luxury hotel with over 100 suites. However, in September 2004 a local resident won a last minute injunction in the High Court to halt work on the hotel while a judicial review investigated if the planning permission granted had followed the correct procedures. In March 2005, the high court ruled that Aylesbury Vale District Council’s decision to grant planning permission to the developers, Mentmore Towers Ltd, was “unimpeachable” and legally sound.
In the last few years the house has appeared in many films, most memorably Eyes Wide Shut with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Other films which used the location include Terry Gilliam's Brazil and The Mummy. The new production of Batman was filmed there in May 2004.
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