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History, Opulence, Scandal - Cliveden House Hotel England has it all
Cliveden House Hotel
If the walls of this magnificent mansion could talk, they’d tell tales of dangerous liaisons, vast wealth, political scandals and sexual intrigues. But that’s all in the past now – or is it?
Cliveden and the National Trust
Cliveden House, regarded as one of the world’s best luxury country hotels, is set in 376 acres of garden owned and operated by the National Trust. Located in the heart of the Berkshire countryside it is only twenty minutes by car to London’s Heathrow airport.
Situated on the banks of the river Thames, the first glimpse of this stately home hotel is totally impressive and that’s just the beginning. The interior is an intriguing mix of antiques, grandeur and old world charm.
As you drive through the ornate gates and meander along the sweeping drive to Cliveden you could be forgiven for thinking you are approaching the Downton Abbey of TV fame.
This property has so much to offer, opulence, history, scandal, all the ingredients to make a stay here most inviting.
Concert Day at Cliveden
Cliveden is for everyone.
Throughout the year the National Trust host many activities in the grounds.
Walks and picnics in the Cliveden gardens, relaxing boat trips along the river Thames.
For young visitors, a Storybook Play Den, and a challenging Cliveden maze and there’s a fitness trail for the enthusiastic visitor.
Guided tours of the house are on the agenda at various times.
'the sweetest stretch of the river 'Jerome J Jerome
In 1889 Jerome J Jerome published the classic comic novel Three Men in a Boat.
He mentions the Thames at Cliveden as – ‘unbroken loveliness this is, perhaps, the sweetest stretch of all the river…’
In Boogie up the River (1989) Mark Wallington retraces Jerome’s journey to mark the centenary.
The first Cliveden House rated a mention from Daniel Defoe (1726) A tour through England and Wales.
Film and TV
In the Thunderbirds 2004 film, the scenes of Lady Penelope’s house were filmed on location at Cliveden.
The Beatles were here, in the film Help (1965) since the scenes, supposedly at Buckingham Palace were filmed at Cliveden.
The Yellow Rolls-Royce, starred Rex Harrison, George C Scott, Shirley MacLaine and Cliveden.
The river Thames at Cliveden appears in both Chaplin (1992) and Carrington (1995)
The BBC used the grounds as a venue for the Antiques Road Show. (2000)
Upstairs Downstairs - from the past
In The Beginning
The first Cliveden House was built in 1666 by the Duke of Buckingham. A supposed hunting lodge it conveniently doubled as a hideaway for the Duke and his mistress. This building was destroyed by fire in 1795.
In 1849 a second Cliveden met the same fate.
Enter the Duke of Westminster and later Lord Astor and the Cliveden we see today evolved. Bring on the celebrities.
The Duke and Duchess in residence -
You will probably recognise some of the impressive guests that have graced Cliveden. To name a few - Mahatma Gandhi, Rudyard Kipling, F.D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, T.E. Lawrence, Joseph Kennedy, Charlie Chaplin, Amy Johnson, Joyce Grenfell, George Bernard Shaw and throughout the years many members of the royal family.
The Astor family knew how to live in style
Sleep tight at Cliveden
The Astor Family and a Wedding gift
It was 1905 when American born Waldorf Astor met Nancy Witcher Langhorne. They married the following year and Waldorf’s father presented the bride and groom with the family estate, Cliveden.
Now, that’s what I call a wedding gift.
In the 1930s the residents became known as the Cliveden Set, a group of political intellectuals. Conjecture still exists that they were Nazi sympathisers.
What can’t be denied is the extensive charity work. And Cliveden served as a military hospital during WW1 and WW2.
By 1942 Cliveden was donated to the British National Trust conditional, at that time, on the Astors having permanent residence there.
Sculpture in the gardens
The Cliveden Scandal - the Profumo Affair
It’s summer 1961. A weekend party begins at Cliveden. Guests mingle, among them Lord John Profumo, Minister of War, with his glamorous actress wife Valerie Hobson.
Set in the grounds of Cliveden is a Thames-side hideaway, Spring Cottage. In residence there that night are society osteopath Stephen Ward, Yevgeny Ivanov, a Russian Naval Attache, and goodtime girl Christine Keeler - 19 years old and a friend of Ward.
And a scandal begins.
Profumo and Christine Keeler become involved in a sexual relationship. As he’s Minister for War, the government soon becomes aware of the situation. Profumo claims his innocence.
Keeler sells her story to the press, and also confirms her relationship with the Russian, Ivanov - revealed to be a Russian spy.
Now all hell breaks loose resulting in one of the biggest scandals in Britain’s political history. The conservative government led by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is almost brought down by the furore.
Finally, Lord Profumo admits lying to Parliament and resigns.
Stephen Ward was charged with living on Keeler’s immoral earnings and later committed suicide.
All these years later, a tongue in cheek gesture perhaps, is the addition of Christine Keeler’s autobiography on bedside tables at Cliveden.
Welcome to Cliveden
Wooden carvings - Cliveden
Welcome to Cliveden
You’ve arrived at the entrance to Cliveden and warmly welcomed. Like magic your luggage and car are whisked away as you enter the magnificent hall.
Comfortable Chesterfield settees are scattered around, huge open fireplaces, high ceilings, antiques, eighteenth century tapestries and a magnificent carved timber staircase.
Suits of armour gaze at you as you sink into oblivion, perhaps choosing a drink from a stacked trolley.
There’s a library of course, a magnificent spa of course, portraits and photographs of the past to examine.
My only query would be – how will I leave?
Spring Cottage on the Thames
Spring Cottage, slumbering on the banks of the river Thames, typifies the picture postcard England we all dream of. Despite the scandal, or perhaps because of it, it is in demand as a rental property.
This ideal accommodation offers luxury galore. Cruise the river in a Cliveden vintage launch. Goes without saying in such a setting -a personal butler is available.
Enjoy the privacy of your own cottage along with all the attractions of the main house, the gym, spa, tennis and all the pleasure of the superb gardens in the National Trust Grounds.
The grade 1 listed formal gardens and woodlands are magnificent. There’s a sculpture collection scattered throughout and the impressive Fountain of Love.
The clock tower was an 1861 addition, still functioning and providing water for the house today.
The Fountain of Love
Nearby places to visit
Cliveden is a touring centre for Maidenhead, Marlow, Henley and the quaint villages of the Chiltern Hills.
You’ll find the university town of Oxford about 30 minutes drive away.
Also worth a look while you’re in these parts is the world’s oldest model village at Beaconsfield and the church at Stoke Poges, where Thomas Gray was inspired to write his Elegy in a Country Churchyard.