Over the winter I always have a few Saturdays to myself when the OH and N are off shooting. But often they’re filled with chores, hair appointments or other things that take up too much of the day to go out. The last shoot of the season I decided I was going to do something more interesting and looked out which National Trust properties were open. Hughenden Manor was on the list, and as it’s only an hour-ish away, I decided to head there.
I’ve only been once for a work meeting, so haven’t actually explored the grounds or manor house, so this was my opportunity.
Hughenden Manor is just outside High Wycombe and is known for being the home of Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria’s favourite Prime Minister. More recently it’s been discovered to have been a map making base during the Second World War.
The car park is above the manor with a short walk downhill through woodland to the gardens and manor itself. There are shuttle buggies for those who struggle with the hill.
I arrived before 11 when the house opens, so I could explore the gardens. There’s plenty of different areas – a large picnic area in an orchard as you approach the stables, the walled garden, stables courtyard where there’s the National Trust café, gift shop and toilets, as well as a parterre behind the manor and various other walks around the grounds. When I was there, there were runners around. With the manor overlooking a church and large sports ground area, people do roam up across the estate.
The walled garden would look lovely once it was flowering and the fruit and veg more developed later in the year, but it was still a sweet walk around, complete with scarecrow and bug hotel.
The parterre wasn’t as I expected, a formal display of flowers and hedges, but more a terrace and grass area overlooking the wider countryside, with fountain and statues. There was plenty for me to get my camera out for – it’s nice to see the flowers starting to emerge.
I also wandered around to find the Ice House, which is displayed as a World War 2 photography developer studio. It’s interesting to see a different part of life in the war.
The manor is a free for all, there’s no need for timed tickets although I don’t know if this changes later in the year when it’s busier. When I was there, one of the free tours was on, so I had to scoot around then a couple of times downstairs. There are 3 available tours, either in the house or grounds, of varying lengths – you just turn up at the allotted time in the right place to join one.
The downstairs of Hughenden Manor is set up as it would have been when Disraeli lived there with his wife. You can wander at will, and there are information books or signs in several rooms and the staircase so you can find out more information.
Upstairs you see the study, and bedrooms, before heading up to the top floor for the special exhibition about gifts from and the friendship between Queen Victoria and Disraeli. This is really interesting to see the timeline of Disraeli’s life and politics, as well as the gifts and paintings Queen Victoria sent. You can also see the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s robe that Disraeli refused to return.
Downstairs along the corridor, there’s an exhibition all about Hughenden’s secret past as a location used for making maps during World War 2. As a geographer, it was so interesting to find out how the maps were built up to locate enemy sites, and hear about the dubious citizen bombings that took place.
I decided to head elsewhere for lunch rather than eating in the café, but spent around 2.5 hours there overall.
A brief walk back up the hill through the woods, where there are plenty of natural play areas set up for children to explore and enjoy.
It was a beautiful sunny winter day to enjoy the gardens at Hughenden, but worth a visit into the manor as well.
Have you ever been?
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