Ascott House was originally a Half-timbered farm house originating from 1606, built on a 3,200-acre (13 km2) estate in the hamlet of Ascott in Buckinghamshire England. The Rothschild family had begun to acquire vast tracts of land in Buckinghamshire earlier in the 19th century, on which they built a series of large mansions from 1852 on wards. In 1873 the Ascott House was acquired by Baron Mayer de Rothschild and he gave the house to his nephew Leopold de Rothschild, who decided to turn it into a fashionable country house to entertain his guests into the substantial, but informal, country house as it is today.
Part of the original house still survives but is almost swallowed up by the later renovations from the 19th and 20th century. A beam over the front entrance bears the carved date 1606. The project became a lifetime work for Devey as Ascott House was continually expanded and remodeled over the next 75 years as a showcase for the family collections of Oriental porcelain, paintings, and fine furniture. The Rothschild family had a taste for fine art, and the money to collect only the best.
The rustic design of Ascott House provided the perfect rural retreat and hunting lodge purely for relaxation and pleasure at which to entertain with comfort and refinement without ostentation or extravagance. Leopold added other attractions to entertain his hunting guest, among the favorites were golf, lawn tennis, croquet and bridge. Marie Perugia, Leopold’s wife, adored the house, and in the hunting season would often extending her stay there even after Leopold returned back to London to attend to business. Leopold de Rothschild, used Ascott House at first as a hunting retreat, but realizing the limitations imposed by its modest size, he employed the architect George Devey who had worked on other Rothschild projects to renovate it.
The extensive manicured gardens were laid out on the advice of the garden designer Sir Harry Veitch circa 1902 by Leopold de Rothschild as a wedding present to his wife. A sundial made entirely of topiary complete with Latin numerals proclaims in clipped yew: "Light and shade by turn, but love always".
The ground floor contains the principal suite of large reception rooms, and while these rooms are furnished with works of art and furniture, they are low ceilinged, and, continuing the informal concept of the design, are in no way intended to be state rooms. The entrance hall is notable for its large paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, and Joshua Reynolds and the large work by George Stubbs, "Five Mares". The dining room, now decorated with what appear to be Dutch tiles but is in fact trompe l'oeil, contains a collection of small, mainly Dutch, paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries by such artists as Aelbert Cuyp, Adriaen van Ostade and Jan Steen.
Upon Leopold’s death in 1917, his son Anthony inherited Ascott House and made more modern upgrades, updating the plumbing and heating systems, enlarging some windows and adding huge bay windows providing views over the Chiltern Hills. In 1949 ownership of the Rothschild's house was transferred to the National Trust by Anthony de Rothschild. The National Trust is a conservation charity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which protects historical buildings and landscapes.
Tours of the Ascott House is a wonderful experience with the several suburb manicured gardens being most impressive. Only the principal ground floor rooms are open to visitors. These rooms are, however, packed with treasures and works of ART. In 1902 extensive gardens were laid out by Leopold de Rothschild as a wedding present to his wife on the advice of the garden designer Sir Harry Veitch. The rambling and climbing shrubs George Devey had planted as part of the design of the facades that Mary Gladstone described in her memoirs are no longer there. Located in the Gate Lodge car parking area is a café restaurant with washroom facilities. Members of the National trust have free admission.
Ascott House remains the countryside residence of the de Rothschild family. By the end of the 19th century, the family owned, or had built, at the lowest estimates, over 41 palaces, of a scale and luxury perhaps unparalleled even by the richest royal families.