Page 13

B The Iliffe wedding party at Basildon Park The Basildon Park ballroom serves as the Downton Abbey dining room

derelict is hardly good enough,” Lady Iliffe later wrote. “It was appallingly cold and damp. And yet, there was still an atmosphere of former elegance, and a feeling of great solidity . . .” Gardner recalled Lady Iliffe offering her what was at the time referred to as the India Room. “This room is yours if you paint it,’” Gardner remembered her saying. “It was an enormous room, and there were two big buckets of paint, one white and one yellow. I painted the walls yellow and the white for the 18th century molding. And I did every bit of it myself.” Over 25 years, Lord and Lady Iliffe restored Basildon Park to its original glory. “Dry rot was the worst of it,” Gardner said. “They had to replace all of the timber.” Lady Iliffe scoured the countryside and salvaged 18th century architectural fittings and features from demolished homes, filling Basildon Park with fine paintings, fabrics, and furniture. “We had Chateau Margeaux every evening with dinner,” Gardner said. “I was 18 years old

at the time, and I did not even like it. Instead, I loved Coca Cola. Now, the tables have certainly turned.” When Lady Iliffe visited Middleburg several years before her death, Gardner hosted a dinner, which a few local guests may recall and for which the table was no doubt set according to Downton Abbey standards. “Lady Iliffe kept trying to get me to move some marble sculptures during her visit,” Gardner said. “She thought they’d look better elsewhere. Fortunately, they were too heavy for us to move ourselves, and I just kept telling her that the ‘help’ was gone.” Lord Iliffe died in 1996 and Lady Iliffe in 2007, having lived in one of the pavilions of Basildon Park after bequeathing the house they had rescued to the National Trust in 1976. They not only gave the house, but 400 acres of park land and a substantial endowment to the National Trust in the hope that “The National Trust will protect it and its park for future generations to enjoy.” n

wwwwww. m p rai rl c, h2 02 10 31 5 . mi di d dl el eb bu ur gr gl il fi ef e. n. ne et t • • A M

and 1783 for Sir Francis Sykes (whose name writer Charles Dickens used for Bill Sykes in his book, Oliver Twist). Through the years, the house passed through a succession of owners. By 1910 it was empty and in 1914 was requisitioned by the British Government as an army convalescent hospital. Edward Iliffe, 1st Baron Iliffe, purchased Basildon in 1928 in order to expand his Yattendon lands. In 1929, the house was sold to George Ferdinando, who intended to dismantle and rebuild it in the United States. It was stripped of many fixtures and fittings and all but abandoned and never relocated. Some decorative wall panels and fittings can now be seen in the Basildon Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. During World War II, the house was again requisitioned, serving as a barracks, a training ground for tanks and finally a prisoner of war camp. In 1952, the park was purchased by Lord Iliffe’s son, Edward Langton Iliffe, 2nd Baron Iliffe and his new bride. “To say it was

As a bride, Margaret Iliffe descends the stairs at Basildon

asildon Park is featured in the Season Five finale of the popular period drama, Downton Abbey. The house also was featured in the special London Season episode of Downton Abbey in 2013, which was watched by over 10 million British viewers. A trip to Basildon Park allows visitors to experience what it was like to transform the house into a working production set with an insider’s guide to the filming of the show and plenty more for fans of the Downton series. The interiors of Basildon Park are used as the Crawley family’s London residence, Grantham House. In the Season Five finale, the elegant Georgian mansion is at the heart of Lady Rose and Atticus Aldridge’s wedding. Basildon Park played host to all of the much-loved regular characters from the show. During the London Season episode in 2013, the house was at the center of the unfolding story as the family prepared for Rose’s coming out ball in the capital. Shirley MacLaine reprised her role as Martha Levinson and Paul Giamatti joined the cast as Cora’s playboy brother, Harold. There’s plenty for Downton Abbey fans to see and do at Basildon Park, including: Guided house tours with details about the filming every Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. from Nov. 3-28. A new video explains in more detail which rooms were used and some of the most significant historic objects and artifacts in each room. Group bookings of over 15 people can opt for a filming talk or tour, where visitors can learn what happens behind the scenes when a National Trust property is used as a film location. The Basildon Park grounds, shop and tea room are open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. From Nov. 3-28 the house is open for guided tours only from noon to 3 p.m. on weekdays, and on weekends for tours from 11 a.m., and is fully open starting at noon. From Dec. 29-31, the house is open and decorated for Christmas from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information go to http://www.nationaltrust. – Courtesy of the National Trust. n

M ii dd dd ll ee bb uu rr gg M LL ii ff ee



13 7

Middleburg Life, March 2015