A Brilliant Cultural Tapestry

The more I explore of my local area, the more I understand what it means to live and work here. Like threads in a beautiful hand-woven rug, each strand, all not immediately obvious, inextricably bound together, are woven to make up a brilliant cultural tapestry that is Buckinghamshire and the Chilterns.

I was recently invited to an evening of classical music at the Rothschild Foundation at Windmill Hill, Waddesdon, with a performance by the wonderful Tring Chamber Music. The new archive at Windmill Hill, which houses the personal archives of the Rothschilds that contributed to Waddesdon, had been on my radar for some time, so I was delighted to be able to finally visit.

Taking full advantage of the views that first attracted Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) to this part of Buckinghamshire (they used to travel out from London to enjoy the hunting), the new Archive and Reading Room is on the site of a former dairy farm at Windmill Hill on the  Estate. Designed by Stephen Marshall Architects and opened in 2011, the site reminded me of the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California. With it’s sleek lines, dark courtyard water feature (no rag-bag fish here), plenty of glass, and uber-thoughful integration of the landscape with the building; that bring the spectacular views directly into the buildings and courtyards. I was able to appreciate this fully when seated and listening to a Beethoven String Trio in D major; uplifting as it was, it paled into comparison with my westward-facing view of Perceval (artwork by Sarah Lucas, 2006), as the shire horse stood greeting the sunset. As the natural light faded, the lights from the villages in the Vale below, began to twinkle in the gathering darkness.

The musicians had been slightly concerned about what the Anish Kapoor piece would do the acoustics, but from where I sat, it really brought the performance to life as each time the musicians moved, the individual pieces of metal that make up the sculpture (the disc with the blue stripe), seemed to absorb the colours and reflect them back as liquid – amazing!

I had a nosy around the bookshelves and found a varied collection that naturally includes tomes on country houses, estates, farming, Israel, and many volumes on the great and the good of Buckinghamshire, including an intriguing title: ‘The Worthies of Bucks” which was published in 1834, and was not in fact about the Worthy family, but ‘men of note’ from across the county.

The threads of intriguing art, exquisite design and architecture were stylishly woven together, upstaged only by the beautiful sunset and view that are also part of the local story, and on display every day!

So inspired by the visit, that I wrote this:

“There once was a shire horse named Perceval
Who stood proud and commanded the locale
On his quest for the Grail
He made the Worthies pale
And they wished he’d relocate to the Panama Canal.”

You can explore the exterior of the building at any time and can see the contemporary art inside Windmill Hill most Wednesday afternoons, 2-4pm. Please check by calling 01296 653226 before you make a special trip. No booking required.

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