There’s nothing like a trip to Buckinghamshire, UK, to get a flavour of Victorian England. Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and his wife Mary-Anne moved into their Buckinghamshire home, Hughenden Manor, in 1848. Unlike the owners of most of Britain’s stately homes, the Disraelis weren’t rich. Benjamin was from a modest Jewish background and spent his whole life in debt, trying to succeed in business whilst endeavouring to climb the slippery pole of British politics. So when the Disraelis decided to renovate their historic home to reflect the latest trends in Victorian decor, they had to do so on a relatively small budget.
Beautiful Victorian Decor on a Low Budget
In 1862, the Disraelis commissioned the notorious architect Edward Buckton Lamb to remodel the classical Georgian building, transforming it into the fantastic Victorian country house they would use to impress their peers and elevate Benjamin’s status in politics.
On the home’s exterior, Lamb replaced the Georgian features with dramatic gothic architectural elements, such as ornamental battlements on the roof. Critics described the large window heads on the upper floors as “indescribable” and “excruciating”—but Benjamin loved them.
Inside, Mary-Anne’s tight budget prompted her to find creative ways to give her home the high-class features she desired. She had the dining room’s ornate “carved wood” ceiling made of papier-mâché, and the 12th century-style, wood-effect archways and vaulted ceilings of plasterwork. Similarly, the study’s “marble” fire surround in the study is made from painted wood.
In spite of her limited funds, Mary-Anne managed to clothe her home with the stunning furnishings and styles of her day: marble busts, golden picture frames, rich colours, ornate mirrors, statues and flock wallpaper.
For more Victorian decor inspiration from Hughenden Manor, reading our blogs here.
Written and photographed by Susie Kearley