Children’s Tour of Waddesdon Manor
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I had a brilliant time this morning at Waddesdon taking my 4 & 5 year olds on the Children’s Tour of the Manor. I totally recommend it.
It’s only 45 minutes long so even small children can cope with it, and a lot of thought has obviously gone into how to best captivate little people. The guides asked lots of questions – what’s this on the wall, can you see the bugs in the room, how long does it take to clean this chandelier etc – and focused on the fun bits like the elephant (above) that moves its trunk, eyes, tail etc when it’s wound up and portraits of children.
But even as an adult, I found it interesting. I’m sure an adult tour would be more in depth, but not necessarily more engaging.
There were about 14 kids today so they were split into two groups, loosely based on age – there were children as young as 2 and I’d guess up to about 11. Our guide was Pam, a lovely mature lady who I’m betting has scores of grandchildren, as she spoke so kindly to the kids, always listening but not letting random comments (‘I’ve got two cats at home’, ‘I went to France on holiday’) put her off her stride.
The tour is for the Ground Floor alone but really these are the most beautiful rooms – the dining room was incredible and I confess I had no idea that the reason the Victorians chose enormous centre-piece decorations (see below) was that they considered it rude to talk across the table, so guests were encouraged to talk to those immediately next to them by blocking out the view straight across. There you go fact fans, use that one in Trivial Pursuit.
It was fantastic seeing such young children so involved and interested in history. Highlights included the Joshua Reynolds painting of his great niece Miss Theophila Gwatkin with her badly-painted fingers hidden by flower blooms;
And Louis XIV’s carpet commissioned for Versailles – one of 93 made but never installed as he’d tired of the idea by the time they were all made.
And these incredibly intricate Sevres pot pourri ‘ship’ vases, three of only 20 ever made.
But most of all, my kids loved the chandelier Porca Miseria by Ingo Maurer in the Blue Dining Room on the first floor (below), commissioned by Lord Rothschild in 2003, all smashed crockery and forks and spoons sticking out in a mid-air explosion. It’s a hint at the current Lord Rothschild’s passion for modern art, a passion that keeps Waddesdon Manor feeling current and exciting.
The next Children’s Tour is on Wednesday 29 May, 11.15 – 12 noon, so I’ll prod you nearer the time. Trust me, you’ll love it.
Child: £14.00, NT Child: £5.00, Adult: £23.00, NT Adult: £5.00. Includes House and Gardens admission. www.waddesdon.org.uk
The Ingo Maurer Chandelier which hangs in the Blue Dining Room will be removed from display from Monday 22 April until Friday 10 May 2013.