History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Superb parterre gardens and riverside walks
In 1666 George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, purchased the Cliveden estate from the Manfield family. He was attracted to the site by the views, which reminded him of Mediterranean scenes he had encountered while accompanying Charles II in exile.
In 1670 he called upon architect William Winde to design a new house on a terrace with views down the river. Except that there wasn't a terrace. Yet.
But the Duke was not one to be bothered by such details as landscape. He had the hilltop site levelled to create a terrace large enough to accomodate his new house and parterre gardens. The house was intended, not as a grand stately home, but as a hunting lodge, a place to escape from court life, entertain friends, and bring mistresses.
In 1696 the Earl of Orkney purchased Cliveden. His wife was Elizabeth Villiers, cousin of the Duke. Then in 1737 Frederick, Prince of Wales, leased the estate from the 4th Earl of Inchiquin and his wife Anne, Countes of Orkney. As part of the lease the Earl and Countess moved to Taplow Court, which was then part of the Clivden estate. But just 14 years later the Prince died and the Earl and Countess moved back to Cliveden.
Warrender brought in Comte Alfred d'Orsay to design the parterre garden that is one of Cliveden's most appealing features, then in 1849 the Duke of Sutherland purchased the house for his wife, paying £30,000, an enormous sum at the time. Luckily they were away from home when another fire broke out. in the library. The blaze was so strong that Queen Victoria, a good friend of the Duchess, noticed the smoke from Windsor Castle and sent the royal fire engines to help battle the fire. Unfortunately they were too late and much of the original house was lost.
In recent history Cliveden has been involved in several episodes that made the news. In 1961 politician John Profumo met Christine Keeler here, and their affair would launch one of Britain's most newsworthy scandals. In 1965 the Beatles used Cliveden as a setting for scenes in their film Help. The band famously held foot races with film crew on the parterre between takes in the filming.
The house is surrounded by 375 acres of superb landscape gardens, including a Rose Garden designed by noted English garden expert Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe. The gardens also feature the Canadian War Memorial Garden, the Ilex Grove, Amphitheatre, River Walk and the Yew Tree Walk.
From here a trail leads down 162 steps to one of the most wonderful little riverside spots you can imagine; the Tortoise Fountain, rising like a mushroom from the wooded hillside, with utterly magical views along the river. It is almost worth coming to Cliveden just for the Tortoise Fountain!
Perhaps the most popular garden area, and certainly the easiest to access, is the exceptionally large Parterre, with parallel areas of colourful flowers set off by hedges. At the far end of the Parterre, facing the house, is a striking classical monument, providing a punctuation mark to the garden vista. And it is a vista; Cliveden has been ranked among the top 10 British gardens; it is a remarkable place, a mixture of formal and informal, in a magnificent riverside setting.
The house itself is now run as a hotel, and only three rooms are open to the public, but the gardens are maintained by the National Trust. There is also a full programme of events at Cliveden, including open-air theatre and children’s theatre held throughout the season.
Address: Cliveden Road, Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England, SL1 8NS
Attraction Type: Garden
Location: On the B476, west of Maidenhead
Phone: 01628 605 069
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
OS: SU915 851
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Stanley Spencer Gallery - 1.1 miles (Museum)
Dorneywood Garden - 1.4 miles (Garden)
Taplow Court - 1.9 miles (Historic House)
Bray, St Michael's Church - 3.5 miles (Historic Church)
Dorney Court - 3.8 miles (Historic House)
Dorney, St James the Less Church - 3.8 miles (Historic Church)
Bisham, All Saints Church - 4.1 miles (Historic Church)
Penn, Holy Trinity Church - 5.1 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Cliveden:
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tourist Information Centre
St Ives Road
Tel: 01628 796 502
Fax: 01628 796 971