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Tring: The Town the Rothschilds (Re)Built

by Julie Mundy

This charming Hertfordshire parish has been listed as a market town since 1315, although Tring Manor was first recorded almost one thousand years ago, in the Domesday Survey of 1086. Just over thirty miles North of London, Tring is nestled within a fold of the glorious Chiltern Hills, where the ancient Icknield way crosses paths with the Roman road Akeman Street.

Pitstone Windmill near TringTring is proud of its heritage. In the town centre stands the Norman church of St Peter and St Paul's, a building that was extended and rebuilt between the 13th and 15th Century, and still retains many of these architectural features. Inside this impressive building, visitors can view historical parish records, one of which displays the family tree of a former vicar -- the Reverend Lawrence Washington, who was the great-great-grandfather of George Washington, the first President of the United States.

Tring has seen many changes over the years, but has not succumbed to the over-development that has ruined many English market towns. It retains local business in its High Street offering traditional hardware stores and gift emporiums rather than retail chain stores. The town centre is set within a conservation area known as Tring Triangle, which imposes strict limitations on changing the local landscape. As a result, many of the buildings you will see and visit in Tring are centuries old and still maintain their original form.

The greatest impact on this town's evolution came with the arrival of the Rothschild family in the late 19th Century. From German Jewish origin, this aristocratic family dominated the World finance and banking industry, becoming influential politicians and investors. Lionel Nathan Rothschild purchased Tring Mansion in 1872 for the princely sum of £230,000 to add to his growing cluster of impressive Estates in the area. His son Natty, or Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the first Baron Rothschild and the first Jewish peer in the House of Lords, made considerable alterations to the mansion, which was originally designed by Sir Christopher Wren around 1682. Natty's creation was a red brick, French Renaissance style residence, which entertained guests such as the Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII, the Chamberlains, Winston Churchill, the Gladstones and Cecil Rhodes among many esteemed visitors.

The Rothschilds transformed Tring. They provided employment, housing and improved the social welfare of residents, and their once-eccentric presence still encompasses the town. The mansion is now an Arts Educational School, but their legacy can be seen everywhere from buildings such as the old Rose and Crown Inn, which was rebuilt by the family in the early twentieth century to house their ever- expanding guest list, to the beautiful Louisa Cottages, which stand opposite the Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, built by Nathan Rothschild as a coming of age present for his son Lionel Walter Rothschild.

His private collection, which started as a hobby when Walter was seven-years-old included 2,000 mounted mammals and a similar number of mounted birds, two million butterflies and moths, 300,000 bird skins, 144 giant tortoises, 200,000 birds' eggs and 30,000 books. The Rothschilds made expeditions to all corners of the globe to acquire an outstanding bounty of exhibits, which was bequeathed to the nation at the time of Walter's death in 1937. More evidence of the Rothschild's benevolence is the 300-acre Tring Park, now managed by the Woodland Trust, with its impressive avenue of lime trees, set within a breathtaking landscape to attract visitors all year round.

Finally, after absorbing the beautiful parkland, nature reserves and architecture throughout Tring, why not take a break in one of the town's old inns, such as the 17th Century Robin Hood, with its acclaimed fish restaurant, or sample fine ales from the legendary Tring Brewery as you enjoy the home-cooked fayre at the Kings Arms. Who knows, after a couple of drinks you may even see Lord Rothschild ride past on his zebra-drawn carriage.

Tring is located just over thirty miles from NW London on the A41 between Hemel Hempstead and Aylesbury. The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum, Akeman Street, Tring, is open Monday to Saturday 10am 5pm and Sunday 2pm 5pm. Tring Mansion is not open to visitors but the Rothchild's Waddesdon Manor home, near Aylesbury, is open to the public and houses one of the finest collections of French 18th century decorative arts in the world.

More Information:

Tring City Council

The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museum

Julie Mundy is the Secretary of the Official Elvis Presley Fan Club of Great Britain, and te author of several books on Elvis and Las Vegas, including The Official Elvis Presley Commemorative Album, Elvis Fashion: From Memphis to Vegas, Travellers' Las Vegas, and Don't Forget Me: The Eddie Cochran Story. Among her upcoming projects are travel guides for Memphis and Nashville, and a ghostwritten book for a WWII prisoner of war. For more information, please visit http://www.julie.mundy.com.
Article © 2006 Julie Mundy
Photo courtesy of Britainonview.com


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