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Things to do in West Wycombe Park House

The east facade of the Palladian mansion at West Wycombe Park, showing pillars and sash windows.
The east facade of the Palladian mansion | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

West Wycombe Park has been the home of the Dashwood family for over 300 years. Set in 45 acres of landscaped parkland, the Palladian house that stands here today is the 18th-century creation of Sir Francis Dashwood, the 2nd Baronet. Inside, there are eight rooms to view, decorated in an eclectic mix of Baroque, Rococo and classical styles, with painted ceilings, marbled walls and ornate fireplaces, and displaying family heirlooms, portraits and hand-crafted furniture.

The Hall

The atmospheric, neo-classical design of the hall sets the scene for your tour of the house. 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 features treads inlaid with marquetry, and there’s an intriguing story behind the frescos on the stairs.

The Dining Room

Also known as the Palmyra room, the dining room has a hand-painted ceiling and walls similar to those in the hall, but these were substantially restored during the 1970s. There are three portraits of Sir Francis Dashwood, 2nd Baronet, one depicting him dressed as the Pope.

Busts include those of another Sir Francis, the 11th Baronet, and Paul Whitehead, poet and steward of the 2nd Baronet’s infamous Hellfire Club. The dining table was added by Pinewood studios in 1994 for the filming of the Importance of Being Earnest.

View of the Tapestry Room, showing the ornate chimney-piece and tapestries at West Wycombe Park
The Tapestry Room at West Wycombe Park | © National Trust Images/Tim Imrie

The Tapestry Room

The tapestry room was formerly the dressing room of the adjoining state bedroom. The 18th-century Flemish tapestries were inherited by 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 house’s central reception room, with commanding views of the gardens, lake and temples. The ceiling decoration recreates a scene from a fresco by Raphael in Rome.

The white carved marble doorway is topped by a bust of the 7th Earl of Westmorland, the 2nd Baronet’s guardian. Family portraits include those of the 1st Baronet, Sir Francis, his four wives and his brother Samuel.

The Red Drawing Room

The red drawing room takes its name from the crimson silk wallcoverings. The Florentine ebony cabinet, inlaid with coloured marble and lapis lazuli, is a souvenir of the 2nd Baronet Sir Francis’s Grand Tour of Italy.

Three landscape paintings of the estate from the early 1750s provide an important record of the house and gardens at the time – one features the frigate the 2nd Baronet used to re-enact sea battles on the lake as entertainment for his guests. Cannonballs dredged from the lake are on display in the house.

An ornate clock displayed on a mantelpiece at West Wycombe Park
Ornate clock at West Wycombe Park | © National Trust Images/William Shaw

The Study

The study was the favourite room of Sir John Dashwood, the 10th Baronet, who placed the West Wycombe estate in the care of the National Trust in 1943. Sir John held a position in the diplomatic service and two of his dress uniforms are displayed here.

There are also 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, its current name reflects the distinctive blue of the ceiling painting – a copy of a vibrant, bacchanalian scene by Annibale Carracci in Rome. The precise symmetry of the four walls is achieved partly by the use of hidden and dummy doors. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you may recognise the blue drawing room – it was used in the ITV period drama.

The Music Room

The music room served as a ballroom and once entertained princesses Elizabeth and Margaret with a circus featuring clowns, acrobats and miniature ponies. The chimneypiece is the most distinctive in the house, featuring white marble exquisitely carved with lizards, mice and insects. The spectacular ceiling decoration is another Raphael copy, but with some subtle adjustments.

A distant view of West Wycombe Park taken from a nearby hill, Buckinghamshire

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