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.
Tring 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 Ñ 5pm and Sunday 2pm Ñ 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.
- 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