Explore 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, founder of the Dillettanti Society and the Hell-Fire Club.
West Wycombe Park grounds are open from 1 April to 31 August 2021, Sunday to Thursday, 2-5pm. We hope to open the house for visits this August.
From earliest times the manor of West Wycombe belonged to the Bishops of Winchester; it is listed as theirs in the Domesday Book but no bishop ever resided there and it was let to the Dormer family. Robert Dormer, created Earl of Caernarvon by Charles I in 1628 supported the King during the Civil War but was killed in an ambush.
His son, the 2nd Earl, deeply in debt, sold the estate to Thomas Lewis, a merchant and alderman of the City of London. Lewis married Elizabeth, the daughter of his friend and fellow alderman, Francis Dashwood.
The Dashwood Baronets of West Wycombe
As part of a family settlement in 1698, Lewis transferred the property to his wife's two brothers, Samuel and Francis Dashwood. Francis was knighted in 1702 and in 1707 he acquired a baronetcy, the first granted by the crown after the union of England and Scotland. The Dashwood's became the premier baronets of Great Britain.
Queen Anne to Palladian
In 1706, Francis bought his brother’s share of the estate for £15,000 and he had the original mansion demolished and a new one built; a modest Queen Anne house with formal gardens.
The 2nd Baronet, Sir Francis, inspired by his travels to Italy, spent his life converting the home into a Palladian style villa. He redesigned the grounds, moving to a more naturalistic landscape, and added temples and follies in a classical style. Delighting in the theatrical, there was even a frigate kept on the lake, used to re-enact sea battles as entertainment for house guests (cannonballs dredged from the lake are on display in the house).
Later generations of the family continued to add to and modify the Park, but in recent years much has been done to restore his vision.
Gifted to the nation
In 1943, Sir John Dashwood gifted the property to the National Trust and his son, the 11th Bt, in partnership with the Trust, began a programme of restoration.
Today, the Park is still home to the Dashwoods. Sir Edward, the 12th Bt, and his family, continue that work to conserve and protect the fragile interiors and dramatic landscapes.
Visiting the house
The house is open to the public from 1 - 31 August, with eight ground floor State Rooms to view.
Numbers are limited for safety and places are available on a first-come first-served basis on the day. (A visit ticket does not necessarily guarantee entry to the house on busy days.)
Monday-Thursday the house is open with guided tours, the last tour is at 4pm. On Sundays the house is open for you to walk through independently, guides will be available in the rooms to answer any questions.
Please bear with us as we may need to close some elements on the day depending on staff and volunteer resources.
One of the finest surviving 18th-century landscape gardens, West Wycombe Park, with its host of eccentric, ornamental buildings from follies and fountains, to temples and statues, stands testament to the vision of Sir Francis.
The grounds are open to the public from April to August, and there are pathways that guide you round the walks and vistas.
The house and parkland have featured in dozens of screen adaptations from literary classics such as Cranford and Sense and Sensibility, to television series including Downton Abbey, Midsummer Murders and The Crown, along with major films from Belle and The Importance of being Earnest, to The Duchess and Labyrinth.