Inside West Wycombe Park
West Wycombe Park has been the home of the Dashwood family for over 300 years. Set in 45 acres of landscaped parklands, the house we see today is the 18th-century creation of Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd Baronet. Inside there is an eclectic mix of baroque, rococo and fashionable architectural styles on view in the eight rooms that are open to the public. Take a virtual tour here.
The atmospheric, neo-classical design of the hall sets the scene for your house tour. Intended to resemble the atrium of a Roman villa, the coffered ceiling and marbled walls are hand painted and contribute to the overall Italianate effect. The mahogany staircase with treads inlaid with marquetry demonstrates remarkable workmanship, and there is an intriguing story to discover behind the frescos on the stairs.
The dining room
The dining room is also known as the Palmyra room and has hand painted walls and ceiling similar to those in the hall but these were substantially restored in the 1970s. The room has three portraits of Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd Baronet, with one depicting him dressed as the pope. Busts include those of Sir Francis Dashwood, the 11th Baronet, and Paul Whitehead, the steward of the Hell-Fire Club. The dining table was installed in 1994 by Pinewood studios for the filming of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.
The tapestry room
The tapestry room was formerly the dressing room to the adjoining state bedroom. The 18th century Flemish tapestries were inherited by Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd Baronet, from his uncle the Earl of Westmorland. A key feature of the room is the rare painted decoration on the dado, frieze, cornice and chimneypiece, resembling plasterwork in white and gold.
The yellow saloon
This is the central and main reception room of the house with commanding views of the gardens, the lake and temples. The ceiling decoration is a copy of a scene in a fresco by Raphael in Rome and the superb doorway of white carved marble is surmounted by a bust of the 7th Earl of Westmorland, the guardian of Sir Francis, the 2nd Baronet. The room contains a number of Dashwood family portraits including Sir Francis, the 1st Baronet, his four wives and his brother Samuel.
The red drawing room
The red drawing room takes its name from the red silk hung on the walls. There is a fabulous Florentine ebony cabinet inlaid with coloured marble and lapis lazuli - a Grand Tour trophy. Three landscapes of the estate painted in the early 1750s provide an important record of the house and garden features at that time. One illustrates the frigate that Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd Baronet, kept on the lake and used in the re-enactment of sea battles as entertainment - cannonballs dredged from the lake are on display.
The study was the favourite room of Sir John Dashwood, the 10th Baronet, who passed the West Wycombe estate to the National Trust in 1943. Sir John held a position in the diplomatic service and two of his dress uniforms are on display. The room also contains a number of framed architectural drawings and designs made for the 18th century development of the house.
The blue drawing room
Originally the dining room, the room’s name reflects the distinctive blue in the ceiling painting that depicts a copy of a vibrant, bacchic themed ceiling by Annibale Carracci in Rome. A key feature of this room is the precise symmetry of each of the four walls achieved, in part, through the use of hidden and dummy doors.
Fans of Downton Abbey may recognise this room.
The music room
The music room has always served as a ballroom for the house. On one occasion it was used to entertain the princesses Elizabeth and Margaret with a circus that was arranged in the room with miniature ponies, clowns and acrobats. The chimney piece is the most distinctive in the house with white marble exquisitely carved with lizards, mice and insects.
The spectacular ceiling decoration is another Raphael copy but with some subtle adjustments.