Hughenden Manor: Benjamin Disraeli’s Country Retreat
When people think of the UK Prime Minister’s country home, they often think of Chequers in Buckinghamshire, privately given to the nation after WWI. However, before this period, Prime Ministers owned their country estates and used them to retreat from the pressures of their position. Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Conservative politician and writer, was no exception; in 1848 he borrowed heavily to purchase a 750-acre estate in the Chiltern valley with a white stucco manor house known as Hughenden.
By 1862, Gothic revivalist architect Edward Buckton-Lamb turned Hughenden into a red brick, baronial-style manor; adding chimneys, parapets with battlements, and elaborate window surrounds. Disraeli used Hughenden as a retreat from London, as a place to write books, and as a base for entertaining politicians and statesmen. Queen Victoria, who favored Disraeli’s politics, maintained a good relationship with the Prime Minister, which developed into a special friendship.
Disraeli hosted the Queen for lunch at Hughenden and Queen Victoria in turn invited him to Osbourne House. She even started a tradition of sending Disraeli flowers (often primroses). After Disraeli’s death in 1881, the house was eventually sold. In 1947 it was donated to the National Trust. Although it was common knowledge that the last occupants were the Air Ministry, only during the past 20 years have researchers discovered Hughenden was a secret intelligence base during WWII. Hughenden, then code named “Hillside,” was where cartographers and illustrators turned secret aerial photos of Germany into maps.
Join writer and Vanity Fair contributor Patrick Monahan as he illustrates this Victorian treasure—showing both the interiors and gardens. He will describe Hughenden’s incredible history, including the house’s newly uncovered role in WWII, and explain the captivating bond between the Prime Minister and Queen that transcended politics.
Patrick Monahan, Writer and Independent Art Advisor
Patrick Monahan, is a writer and independent art advisor, specializing in British paintings, drawings, and sculpture from the eighteenth century to the present. A native New Yorker, he is consulted by collectors and museums on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico. His written work appears in Country Life and Vanity Fair, as well as in the exhibition catalogue “Flaming June: the making of an icon,” Leighton House, London, 2016. He holds an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge as well as a BA from the University of Chicago, both in art history. He lives and works in New York City, with regular visits to London.