An American couple that brought high society to Maidenhead.
In 1873, the Astor family of New York bought the Cliveden Estate at Taplow from the Duke of Westminster. In 1906 it was given to the 2nd Viscount Astor, Waldorf Astor (1879-1952) on the occasion of his marriage to Nancy Langhorne (1879-1964).
Waldorf followed his father as High Steward of the borough, and Nancy, born in Virginia in the USA, was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament. She was also renowned as a lavish hostess and a formidably fast driver.
In World War One, Waldorf built a hospital on the estate and gave it to the Canadian Red Cross, saying “My wife and I have tried to use it (Cliveden) to bring about a better understanding between the English speaking world and between various groups and sections of people in this and other countries.” The hospital was later taken over by the NHS and served the community for many years, finally closing in 1985.
Waldorf was a generous benefactor of many local undertakings. He also established the famous Cliveden Stud, which produced a string of successful horses, and won the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot in 1926.
The famous ‘Cliveden Set’ were a group of eminent people who Waldorf and Nancy entertained on their estate in the 1930s. These included his neighbour Lord Desborough, and politicians (including Lord Lothian and Lord Halifax), writers and philosophers. George Bernard Shaw and other members of the Fabian Society were regular visitors.
The Astors gave Cliveden to the National Trust, with the proviso that they could continue to live in the house for as long as they wished. The last of the Astors moved out in 1968, and the house is now a hotel.
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