Halton House

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Halton House
Halton House
Grid reference: SP878100
Location: 51°46’53"N, 0°43’35"W
Country house
Owned by: Royal Air Force
Website: haltonhouse.org.uk

Halton House is a grand country house in Buckinghamshire, in the Chiltern Hills above the village of Halton. It was built for Alfred de Rothschild between 1880 and 1883, in the family's remarkable French-inspired style, but sold to the Royal Air Force in 1918.[1]

Halton House is currently used as the main officers' mess for RAF Halton.


There has been a manor house at Halton since the Norman Conquest, when it belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the mid-16th century Thomas Cranmer when Archbishop sold the manor to Henry Bradshaw, Solicitor-General.[2] After remaining in the Bradshaw family for some considerable time, it was sold to Sir Francis Dashwood in 1720 and was then held in the Dashwood family for almost 150 years.[3]

The site of the old Halton House, or Manor, was west of the church in Halton village. It had a large park, which was later bisected by the Grand Union Canal. In June 1849 Sir George Dashwood auctioned the contents and, in 1853, the estate was sold to Baron Lionel de Rothschild.[4]

Lionel then left the estate to his son Alfred de Rothschild in 1879.[4] At this time the estate covered approximately 1,500 acres (6 km²) in a triangle between Wendover, Aston Clinton and Weston Turville.[5]

Construction under Alfred de Rothschild

It is thought the architect was William R Rodriguez (also known as Rogers), who worked in the design team of William Cubbitt and Company, the firm commissioned to build and oversee the project in 1880.[6] Just three years later the house was finished.[7]

The house was widely criticised by members of the establishment. The architect Eustace Balfour, a nephew of the Marquess of Salisbury, described it as a "combination of French Chateau and gambling house", and one of Gladstone's private secretaries called it an "exaggerated nightmare".[8]

Sale to RAF

Alfred was a superb host, and his greatest pleasure was to give pleasure to others, whether as a philanthropist to the lowest kitchen maid or host to Emperor, Tsar, or Shah. At Halton all were entertained. However, Halton's glittering life lasted less than thirty years. The last party was in 1914 at the outbreak the First World War.

Devastated by the carnage of the war, Alfred's health began to fail and he died in 1918. Alfred had no legitimate children, so the house was bequeathed to his nephew Lionel Nathan de Rothschild. Lionel detested the place and sold the contents at auction in 1918. The house and by now diminished estate were purchased for the Royal Air Force by the Air Ministry for a bargain £115,000.[9]

Officers' Mess

Shortly after the Royal Air Force acquired the Halton estate, the house became RAF Halton's officers' mess. On 1 January 1920 RAF Halton was upgraded to a command and the headquarters element moved into Halton House.

Although the House no longer functions as a headquarters, it remains an officer' mess. Under the RAF the house has been conserved. As an officers' mess it has seen more entertaining and parties than under Alfred de Rothschild. To the chagrin of many people, the winter garden and its huge dome were demolished, and a new accommodation wing has been built in its place. However, with the appreciation of 19th-century architecture ascending, it is unlikely that such will occur again. A new dining room was built at the rear of the servants' wing of the house in the 1960s.[10]


For the style of the house Alfred was probably influenced by that of newly completed Waddesdon Manor, the home of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, his brother-in law. While not so large there is a resemblance, but other continental influences appear to have crept in: classical pediments jut from mansard roofs, spires and gables jostle for attention, and the whole is surmounted by a cupola. The front of the house features a porte-cochère. A Rothschild cousin described it as: "looking like a giant wedding cake".[10]

If the outside was extravagant, the interior was no anti-climax. The central hall (not unlike the galleried two-storey hall at Mentmore Towers) was furnished as the "grand salon". Two further drawing rooms (the east and west) continued the luxurious theme. The dining and billiards rooms too were furnished with 18th-century panelling and boiseries. The theme continued up the grand, plaster panelled staircase to the bedrooms. The whole was furnished in what became known as "Le Style Rothschild", that is, 18th-century French furniture, boulle, ebony, and ormolu, complemented by Old Masters and fine porcelain.[10]

A huge domed conservatory known as the winter garden was attached to the house.[10]

In media

Halton House is also used frequently as a film set and is often seen in cinemas and on televisions around the world. It has been featured in:[11]

  • Jeeves and Wooster (Series 3, Episode 1 "Bertie Sets Sail" - 1992)
  • Evita (1996 musical film based on the life of Eva Perón)
  • The World Is Not Enough (1999 James Bond film)
  • An Ideal Husband (1999 film based on the play by Oscar Wilde)
  • What a Girl Wants (2003 film)
  • Bride and Prejudice (2004 Bollywood-style film adaptation of Jane Austen's 1813 novel)
  • The Queen (2006 film)
  • Flyboys (2006 film)
  • Diana: Last Days of a Princess (2007 docudrama)
  • The King's Speech (2010 historical drama)
  • Downton Abbey (Series 2, Episode 6 - 2011). The interior only was used as "Haxby Park", home of Sir Richard Carlisle, a suitor of Lady Mary Crawley during Season 2.
  • Agatha Christie's Poirot (Series 13, Episode 4 The Labours of Hercules 2013). Exterior, main hall, dining room and terrace, used as a Swiss hotel in the Alps.

Outside links


  1. RAF - Halton House
  2. "Bradshaw". http://www.bradshaw-ulster.co.uk/Origins.htm. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  3. "Halton House, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire". Country House Reader. https://countryhousereader.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/halton-house-aylesbury-buckinghamshire/. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Halton House". Parks and Gardens. http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/1593. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  5. "Sir John Dashwood-King". Halton Village News. http://www.haltonvillagenews.co.uk/rothschild-connection.html. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  6. "William Cubitt & Co". Scottish Architects. http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=202779. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  7. "RAF Halton". Ministry of Defence. http://www.raf.mod.uk/rafhalton/aboutus/haltonhouseofficersmess.cfm. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  8. Fisher, John; Best, Antony (2013). On the Fringes of Diplomacy: Influences on British Foreign Policy, 1800–1945. Ashgate Publishing. p. 55. ISBN 978-1409401193. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=rwiiAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA55. Retrieved 22 June 2014. 
  9. "Halton House stars in Queen movie". Bucks Herald. 26 September 2006. http://www.bucksherald.co.uk/news/halton-house-stars-in-the-queen-movie-1-602376. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "Case Study: Belvedere Tower - Halton House". Meon Surveys. http://www.meonsurvey.co.uk/casestudies_halton.htm. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  11. "Ministry of Defence film locations". http://www.films.mod.uk/south_east/halton_1.htm. Retrieved 4 July 2015.