Cliveden House

"CLIVEDEN" rhymes with "GIVE DEN"

The Cliveden Estate is now owned by the National Trust

Orangery Cafe - National Trust Restaurant

There is a National Trust Restaurant in the Orangery near (north east of) the main house.

Cliveden Hotel

Cliveden House is a Hotel leased from the National Trust, and is not generally open to the public.
They do offer Afternoon Tea (2017: £37pp) and also fine Dining (Andre Garrett), to non residents. Booking essential

1910: Cliveden in Thames Villages by Charles Harper.

1860: A Handbook for Travellers in Berks, Bucks and Oxfordshire -

Evelyn speaks of Cliefden as "the stupendous natural rock, wood, and prospect, of the Duke of Buckingham." This was George Villiers, the favourite of Charles II., who built the original house. When he had killed the Earl of Shrewsbury in a duel, the Countess holding his horse disguised as a page, he fled hither with her to -

Cliefdon's proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love."

Horace Walpole says of him, "When this extraordinary man, with the figure and genius of Alcibiades, could equally charm the Presbyterian Fairfax and the dissolute Charles; when he alike ridiculed that witty king and his solemn chancellor ; when he plotted the ruin of his country with a cabal of bad ministers, or, equally unprincipled, supported its cause with bad patriots, one laments that such a man should have been devoid of every virtue."
The portrait of the Duke has been drawn by four masterly hands; Burnet has hewn it with a rough chisel; Count Hamilton touched it with a delicacy that finishes while it seems to sketch; Dryden caught the living likeness; Pope completed the historical resemblance.
His house, designed by Archer ( Walpole's 'Groomporter of Architecture'), was much improved and adorned by the Earl of Orkney. It was of red brick, with stone dressings, and had sweeping colonnades and square wings, with a noble terrace 433 ft. long. It was burnt, May 20, 1705, through the carelessness of a maid reading a novel and letting her candle catch the curtains, and then falling down in a fit till the fire had gained head.
In 1830 it was rebuilt by Sir G. Warrender of Lochend, after which it was purchased by the Duke of Sutherland, and again rebuilt by him, after a second conflagration, from a design by Barry.
The present magnificent house rises from a wide lawn on the heights, raised on a broad terrace. Though very simple, it is exceedingly imposing. The centre is a revival of Inigo Jones's design for old Somerset House. A huge inscription commemorates its second resurrection from the flames, in 1849, under the auspices of its present owners.
Frederick Prince of Wales, father of George III., resided here for a short time, during which the first performance of Thomson's masque of 'Alfred' took place in his presence ; and the famous national air of 'Rule Britannia', composed by Dr. Arne, was played for the first time on August 1st, 1710.
Visitors may gain admittance to the grounds and gardens of Cliefden, when the family are away, on application to Mr. Fleming, the head gardener; the house may be seen by a written order from Mr. Jackson, the Duke's agent.

1880: William Morris did not approve on socio/political grounds! Putney to Kelmscott -

Cliveden reach was the ugliest part of the whole river!
"a mountain before a plain; a plain before a suburb, a suburb before a dust heap, a dust heap before a sewer, but a sewer before a gentleman's house" - (note by our communist).
Towed on in most beautiful sunset past Cookham.
Country very delightful from Cookham Lock onward: hills (low chalk banks call them) fall back from the river which is very wide: the whole full of character.

This spectacular estate overlooking the River Thames has a series of gardens, each with its own character, featuring topiary, statuary, water gardens, a formal parterre, informal vistas, woodland and riverside walks.
1678-80: The first Cliveden House by George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham (E K W Ryan says "the wildest and wickedest roue of all the courtiers of his time").
1681: Dryden described George Villiers -

Some of their chiefs were Princes of the land;
In the first rank of these did Zimri stand;
A man so various that he seem'd to be
Not one, but all Mankind's Epitome.
Stiff in Opinions, always in the wrong;
Was Everything by starts, and Nothing long:
But, in the course of one revolving Moon,
Was Chymist, Fidler, States-man, and Buffoon;
Then all for Women, Painting, Rhiming, Drinking,
Besides ten thousand freaks that died in thinking.

1670, July 23rd: Evelyn says in his diary -

I went to Clifden, that stupendous natural rock, wood, and prospect, of ye Duke of Buckingham's, buildings of extraordinary expense.
The grotts in ye chalk are pretty, 'tis a romantic object, and the place altogether answers the most poetical description that can be made of solitude, precipice, prospect, or whatever can contribute to a thing so very like their imaginations.
The stande, somewhat like Frascati as to its front, and on ye platform is a circular view to ye utmost verge of ye horizon, which, with the serpenting of the Thames, is admirable.
The staire case is for its materials singular; the cloisters, descents, gardens, and avenue thro' the wood, august and stately, but the land all about wretchedly barren, and producing nothing but ferne.
Indeede, as I told his Majesty that evening (asking how I lik'd Clifden) without flattery, that it did not please me so well as Windsor, for the prospect and park, which is without compare, there being but one only opening, and that narrow, which led one to any variety, whereas that of Windsor is every where greate and unconfin'd.


Cliveden House as it appeared in the second half of the 18th Century
(Country Life, 1948)

1792: Picturesque Views on the Thames by Samuel Ireland -

... the river ... winds beautifully beneath the range of Cliefden Hills, commanding a distant view of Lord Boston's and Cliefden House, which are both so happily situated on an eminence, as to comprise, though not one of the most extensive, yet one of the most richly diversified scenes in the kingdom.
THE terrace before Cliefden House is reported to be higher than that of Windsor Castle. Cliefden House was began by George Villiers the second Duke of Buckingham, in the reign of Charles II. and is evidently copied from the plan of Burleigh on the Hill, the residence of the first Duke, his father, which plan Mr. Walpole tells us was the design of John Thorpe, a folio volume of whose works are in the possession of Lord Warwick.
OF George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, the following lines of Pope, as they are applicable to the present subject, and to the dissipated scene exhibited on this spot, justly claim recital.

On once a flock bed, but repair'd with straw,
With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw ;
The George and Garter dangling from that bed,
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies - alas ! how chang'd from him,
That life of pleasure, and that foul of whim !
Gallant and gay, in Cliefden's proud alcove,
The bow'r of wanton Shrewfbury and love.

THE last line alludes to an intrigue between the Countess of Shrewsbury and the Duke of Buckingham, which occasioned a rencontre between the Duke and her husband, in which the latter was slain. It is said, that the Countess, disguised as a page, held the Duke's horse during the combat, and afterwards slept with him in the shirt stained with her husband's blood.
AFTER the death of the Duke, which happened in 1688, in the 60th year of his age, the Earl of Orkney made considerable improvements in this house, as did Frederic, the late Prince of Wales, who resided many years on this charming spot.
It is now [1792] in the possession of the Earl of Inchinquin, and is occupied by his daughter the Countess of Orkney.

Cliveden,Boydell 1793
Cliefden. June 1, 1793 J. Farington R.A. delt. J.C. Stadler sculpt.
(Published) by J. & J. Boydell, Shakespeare Gally. Pall Mall & (No. 90) Cheapside London.

1795: Two years after the above picture Mrs Lybbe Powys wrote in her diary -

20th May 1795:
We dined at Mrs Freeman's at Henley Park, that night,
and about 9.30 the servants came in and told us that Windsor Castle was on fire.
On returning to Fawley Rectory we saw the roof fallen in - a tremendous sight;
but on reaching the rectory, from my dressing-room window I could see it was not Windsor Castle.

It was Cliveden House. There is some doubt about the date because Constable Gibbins' diary, at Cookham, recorded -

1795: May 5, Clifden House was burnd down it not in shurd [insured] was.

1795: Mrs Powys then arranged a trip to see the ruin -

29th July 1795: We had a water-party with the Freemans of Fawley Court, who have a delightful boat, with awning, and every convenience of curtains &c. to keep one from bad weather. We set off for Cliefden Spring.
Took up Mr & Mrs Law from Culham Court.
It was too cold to dine on the usual turf, so got out, and I walked while everything in the boat was got ready for dinner. We all had curiosity to see the once famous Clifden House, so we set off and mounted a very steep hill.
The whole fabric, except one wing, a scene of ruin - the flight of stone steps all fallen in pieces; but what seemed most unaccountable was that the hall, which had fell in, and was a mass of stone pillars and bricks all in pieces, but two deal doors not in the least hurt, looking as if just fresh painted! They were the entrance from the inner hall; an archway over them had fallen in.
The fire was caused by the carelessness of a servant turning down a bed. Very few articles of value were saved. The loss is estimated at £50,000.

1811: The Thames -

It were to be wished that we could give a similar character [as Hedsor] of the abrupt and shaggy brow of Cliefden, as rich as foliage can make it; but the splendid structure which it bore has not only ceased to form a part of the landscape which we are attempting to describe, but to be the proud ornament of the country round it.
Some years ago it was destroyed by fire, and another phoenix has not yet arisen from what little the conflagration spared.

The second Cliveden House was built by Sir George Warrender
1836: Tombleson -

Cliveden House, Tombleson, 1836
Cliveden House 1836, Tombleson

The second Cliveden House also burnt down in 1849. It is said that it was Queen Victoria herself who saw the fire from Windsor and sent her fire brigade.

The Story of the Thames, J E Vincent -

The present house, a stately building and classical in style, was built for the Duke of Sutherland, from the designs of Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament.

The Royal River -

... From time to time as we pass down the stream [ Cliveden House ] comes into view. ... Its clock tower, indeed as it rises above the hills, occasionally forms a pleasant addition to the view; but the house is not particularly striking in itself, and the design is wholly unsuitable for its position. That requires a building of irregular outline and broken, but well-conceived sky-line. a group of buildings, whose outline should suggest a cluster of hills. Yet the design of Cliefden House could readily be imitated with three or four packing cases ...

1883: Cliveden House, Henry Taunt -

Cliveden House, Henry Taunt, 1883
Cliveden House, Henry Taunt, 1883
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT03411

In the grounds was Canning Oak, named after George Canning, Prime Minister in 1827. He was a regular visitor to Cliveden who spent many hours under the tree, looking at the spectacular view of the Thames -

Canning Oak
Canning Oak before 5th May, 2004

 

Canning Oak 2006
Canning Oak after 5th May, 2004

On a still day the chimes of the clock at Cliveden sound throughout the reach. The chimes are the same as those of the Houses of Parliament. The massive tower is actually a water tower with a supply pumped from the other side of the river. The gilding has recently been refreshed - and will, no doubt, tone down in time ...

Cliveden Clocktower
Cliveden Clocktower in 2006

Red Kite over Cliveden, 2006
Red Kite over Cliveden.
I know you can't really tell - but here's the detail from the next photo I took - a bit blurred but -

Red Kite over Cliveden
Red Kite over Cliveden © John Eade 2006

Lantern Slide (1883-1908) - Cleveden House
Pictures by W.C.Hughes. Thanks to Pat Furley, research by Dr Wilson.

Cliveden 2005
Cliveden 2005

Cliveden Amphitheatre

1740: Rule Britannia! -

A major work also undertaken in 1740 was the musical arrangement for the masque "Alfred" the finale of which included "Rule Britannia"; the librettist was J. Thomson and to his words Arne wrote the music. The first performance was given at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire, then the residence of Frederick, Prince of Wales, on the 1st August in commemoration of the accession of George I and in honour of the birth of Princess Augusta. On this occasion the famous patriotic song was sung by the tenor, Thomas Lowe.

The masque was staged at the amphitheatre in the Cliveden grounds -

Cliveden amphitheatre
Cliveden amphitheatre where "Rule Britannia" was first sung in 1740

And even the ticket for that event was engraved by Hogarth! from Anecdotes of William Hogarth (by William Hogarth) -

Hymen and Cupid: - Engraved as a ticket for the Masque of Alfred, performed at Cliveden House before the Prince and Princess of Wales, on the Princess Augusta's birth-day.

Hymen & Cupid, William Hogarth
Hymen & Cupid, the ticket for the Masque engraved by Hogarth

[ The blank scroll under the stringed instrument is where the price went!]

Lulle Brook, mill stream outflow, Left bank

On that stream Formosa Place is on the Left bank and Formosa Court on the left

Formosa Island, Left bank

1875: My Lady Ferry, Henry Taunt -

My Lady Ferry, Henry Taunt, 1875
My Lady Ferry, Henry Taunt, 1875
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT1831

1885: Cliveden Ferry, Heny Taunt -

Cliveden Ferry, Heny Taunt, 1885
Cliveden Ferry, Heny Taunt, 1885
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT2080

Weir Stream, Left bank immediately below Cookham Lock Cut

Cookham Lock Cut, Left bank

Hedsor Water, weir stream, straight on

 
 
 
 
Up cut to COOKHAM LOCK (skipping the Hedsor Water weir stream)  
 
 
 
Straight on up weir stream to Hedsor Water