Tour of Hughenden Manor
* Hughenden Manor is currently closed. The gardens remain open. * Find out about Hughenden’s Victorian history and uncover its secret wartime story in this online tour of the Manor.
The manor at Hughenden was built in 1738 and became the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and his wife Mary Anne who bought the estate in 1848. They transformed Hughenden into their family home and had a significant influence on the styling of the country manor.
The rooms reflect the personalities of both husband and wife and tell a tale of their tastes, needs and status as rising members of Victorian high society.
Disraeli hired architect Edward Buckton-Lamb to complete the transformation of Hughenden from a Georgian white stuccoed building into a Victorian country retreat. The red brick arcade was originally open air and plate glass was added in the 1870s. The two large statues depict Benjamin Disraeli in his robes as a member of the Order of the Garter, and Edward Stanley (the 14th Earl of Derby) who was a Tory MP and appointed Disraeli to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer in three of his governments.
In the Entrance Hall Disraeli continued his transformation of Hughenden. In 1858 he added the ribbed plaster ceiling vaults which feature the Disraeli crest. He also added in many cosy features like the brass and cast-iron stove with encaustic tile decorations (decorated by burning in coloured clays and dyes) which Mary Anne always ensured was lit ready for when Benjamin returned from London.
The Inner Hall was a space where the Disraelis could display prestigious objects, from portraits of friends and family to interesting furniture. Such displays would be viewed by guests as they waited to be received by the household. The centrepiece of this room is a large portrait of the famous poet Lord Byron, one of Disraeli’s literary heroes. He is surrounded by political and diplomatic figures including Napoleon III.
Often known as Disraeli’s ‘Gallery of Affection’, the staircase and corridor are home to many portraits of Disraeli’s closest friends and colleagues. Figures depicted include: Horatio Walpole (Conservative MP and peer, who gifted his portrait to Disraeli as a sign of their friendship), Sir Nathaniel Rothschild (a close personal friend of Disraeli’s, serving as the principal trustee of his estate), Lord Denison (Speaker of the House of Commons, 1857-1872) and Robert Cecil (who served as Secretary of State for India, 1874-1878, and as Foreign Secretary, 1878-1880 under Disraeli).
Hughenden’s library contains 3,733 books, the oldest dating to 1477. Disraeli’s love of books was a trait inherited from his father, Isaac D’Israeli, who was a well-known scholar and author and who amassed a collection of over 25,000 volumes which he passed on to his son. Many of the books were sold to cover Disraeli’s personal debts, but those still in the collection cover subjects from history and politics, to religion and philosophy to travel works and poetry. The ceiling depicts scenes from Aesop’s fables, a favourite book of Disraeli’s when he was young, and his shark-skin globe and blotter can still be found on his desk.
The drawing room takes its name from an eighteenth-century practice, where ladies were expected to ‘withdraw’ to a cosy space after supper to socialise. The Drawing Room at Hughenden Manor was therefore Mary Anne’s domain. A space to relax, but also to show off her personal tastes. The gilt porcelain and ormolu chiffonier are highlights of the space. Amongst some Victorian ladies there was a preference for bold, rococo styles and gilt decorations, and drawing rooms were often organised to show off one’s most valuable possessions. The ‘B chair’ was embroidered by Mary Anne herself and captures her excitement at being created Viscountess Beaconsfield in 1868.
The garden hall provided direct access to the Italianate garden, designed by Mary Anne. It created a romantic aesthetic, originally complete with its metal pergola full of hanging plants overlooking a sunken garden with organised beds and classical statuary. The Gothic oak armchair was specifically carved for Disraeli by John Baldwin in 1853. The detailed decoration on the chair, which includes a cockatrice carved on the right arm and a basilisk on the left, is meant to be an interpretation of the prophecy of Isaiah. The portraits in the space include those of James Clay, Edward Bulwer-Lytton and George Manners, fellow MPs and political characters who inspired and worked alongside Disraeli during his career.
Few figures of the Victorian age were as enigmatic as Benjamin Disraeli. A Jew, a Christian, an author, a politician; Disraeli defied classification and expectation in every aspect of his life. These aspects of Disraeli’s life are the focus of the display in the Disraeli Room. Whether through the symbols Disrael integrated into his coat of arms (seen in the different seals he used), of the Sephardic castle, or the portrayal of Disraeli’s character and dress in Punch magazine, there are multiple elements to Disraeli’s character and how he used his status as an outsider to grow his success.
During the 1940s Hughenden was the site of a top-secret operation, codenamed Hillside. Men and women, both civilian and RAF were working on the production of target bombing maps which were used to help end the Second World War. The west wing rooms explore the story of the work and lives of the people who were based at Hughenden. Original maps show the new simplified format that target bombing maps had to take, each detail of which was hand drawn by those at Hillside. Hear from some of the map makers themselves in the audio-visual display and see some of their personal items related to their time at the manor.