The Trust’s Estates in Buckinghamshire
The Hartwell Estate and Fairford Leys
The Hartwell Estate in the Vale of Aylesbury was purchased by Ernest Cook in 1938 and currently covers some 1,809 acres. The estate is mixed arable and dairy land and is home to two of the Trust’s eight dairy farms. One of the farming tenant’s family has been farming the area for the last 150 years.
Hartwell House is the most celebrated residence on the Trust’s estates. With its Elizabethan and Georgian facades and garden landscaped by Capability Brown it was, for a time between 1807 and 1814, the residence of the exiled future king of France Louis XVIII.
Ernest Cook had intended to live on this estate and indeed spent time in the 1930s installing modern heating systems, repairing the roof and the stonework. However, he did not actually take up residence, choosing instead to retire to Bath.
After use of the building as a finishing school and a subsequent serious fire, the leasehold of the house was acquired by Historic Hotels whose owner, Richard Broyd, put huge effort and considerable funds into a programme of restoration. In accordance with Mr Broyd’s wishes, the lease was assigned to the National Trust in 2008 but the house continues to be run as one of the UK’s top country house hotels.
The estate lies on the southwestern boundary of Aylesbury and over the last few decades has benefited from growth of the town.
On the eastern edge of the Hartwell estate lies the new village of Fairford Leys which was built on land sold by the Trust between 1993 and 2004. The design and management of the development was controlled by the Trust during construction; to ensure community life would be central to the development, facilities such as a community centre, ecumenical church, leisure facilities, shops, offices and a primary school were provided. This has resulted in a vibrant community with a range of accommodation – Fairford Leys is always referred to as an exemplar of sustainable development.