Cliveden House is one of England’s finest country estates, set in the heart of the beautiful Berkshire countryside in South East England. The 376-acre estate, featuring enchanting gardens and woodlands, is about a 45-minute drive from London and approximately 20 minutes from London Heathrow Airport. The historic mansion has a rich and fascinating history, dating back over 350 years. Here’s a brief overview of this renowned English manor’s intriguing past.
1600s – 1800s
The house was originally built in the 1600s by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham for his mistress. It then passed through various owners before being purchased by the Duke of Westminster in the late 1800s. Under the Duke’s ownership, the house underwent extensive renovations and became a fashionable gathering place for society’s elite.
The ornate 100-foot tall Clock Tower was added in 1861 by architect Henry Clutton. The golden sculpture at the top of the tower is a version of the Spirit of Liberty found at the Place de la Bastille in Paris.
Early 20th Century
In the early 20th century, the house was leased to American socialite Nancy Astor, who used it as a base for her political career. Astor was the first woman to serve as a Member of Parliament in the UK. And she hosted many high-profile guests at Cliveden, including Winston Churchill and George Bernard Shaw.
During World War II, the house was used as a military hospital and then as a boarding school. In the 1950s, it was converted into a luxury hotel and then later into a conference center.
In the 1960s, Cliveden was at the center of a political scandal known as “The Profumo Affair.” It was during a party hosted by Lord Astor at Cliveden’s outdoor pool, that British Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, met 19-yr-old English model Christine Keeler, who was also involved with a Soviet diplomat. Their ensuing affair and scandal led to Profumo’s resignation and damaged the reputation of the British government. To this day, it is known to be one of the biggest political scandals in British history.
In 1965, The Beatles filmed part of their movie, “Help” at Cliveden House. FYI… other scenes from the movie were filmed in London, Salisbury Plain (a cameo appearance by Stonehenge), the Austrian Alps, New Providence and Paradise Island in the Bahamas.
In the 1990s, Cliveden was purchased by the National Trust, a UK charity dedicated to preserving historic properties.
Today, the iconic Cliveden House is open to the public as a luxury five-star hotel, offering innovative British cuisine, afternoon tea, luxurious spa treatments, garden tours, boat trips, and exclusive events.
Over the years, Cliveden guests have included: Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, and Charlie Chaplin. The manor was also visited by the late Queen Elizabeth II. And more recently, The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and her mother Doria Ragland, spent the night there before her Royal Wedding.
Cliveden House is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in UK history. We loved spending the day there, enjoying afternoon tea and strolling through its magnificent gardens. Have you visited Cliveden House yet?