Step Back in Time at Nuffield Place

Nuffield Place Henley on Thames
Ever wanted to step back in time to the 1930’s? A visit to Nuffield Place near Henley on Thames is a great way to do it. In fact, it appears the occupants have simply stepped out for a moment and might return at any time.

Coats hang on pegs in the front hallway and a handbag sits on a chair.

Nuffield Place interior

Nuffield Place

Nuffield Place – originally named Merrow Mount – was built in 1914. William Morris, founder of Morris Motors and one of the greatest philanthropists of the twentieth century, bought the house in 1933. As Morris had recently been made Lord Nuffield, the house was renamed to reflect that.

At the time of purchase, Lord Nuffield made some additions to the house – including a large billiard room at the front. He also redecorated the whole house from top to bottom. However, Lord and Lady Nuffield were so frugal that the house was never redecorated after that date, despite the fact that they lived there for around thirty years. It’s basically a life size time capsule. 

Nuffield Place Henley on Thames

From the newspaper left lying on a chair to the bowl of nuts and tin of mints on the side table, there is a real impression that you are walking through a home that is actually lived in.

William Morris

One of the most remarkable men of the 20th century, William Morris – later Lord Nuffield – was born in 1877. He left school at 14 and became an apprentice in a bike shop to help support his family. When he was refused a pay rise, Morris walked out, and set up his own bike shop with a capital investment of just four pounds.

William Morris was a bit of a whiz-kid, and his fascination with how things were built led him to experiment with making motorised vehicles. In 1913 he built his first motor car. From this first Morris Oxford to the post-war Morris Minor and then MG, Morris’ cars became known around the world and Morris gained phenomenal wealth.

Instead of spending the money on himself, William Morris gave away over £30 million pounds in his lifetime. From setting up a foundation which lent wedding dresses to women who served in World War 2, to manufacturing and giving away iron lungs (a device which saved the lives of thousands affected by polio),  Morris never rested in his quest to help make ordinary people’s lives better.

Morris married Elizabeth Anstey in 1903. The couple never forgot their humble beginnings, despite becoming titled and rubbing shoulders with kings and queens. 

More About Nuffield Place

For so wealthy a man, Nuffield Place is a very modest property in both size and decoration. Although Lord and Lady Nuffield owned many beautiful things, this was not a couple who splashed out on indulgences for themselves. The house has a feel of homeliness and comfort rather than one of opulence.

Although Lord and Lady Nuffield lived very frugally, Nuffield Place is beautifully decorated for the period. There are original items owned by the couple on display.

Dining Room Nuffield Place
Wandering round the bedrooms is a real peak into day to day life at Nuffield Place.

Bedrooms at Nuffield Place
Visitors’ suitcases sit open, half unpacked in the guest room. A tea tray rests beside a bed and a closet door, left open as if by mistake, reveals a colourful wardrobe of dresses and robes. The decor is tasteful but modest, not really what you would expect to see in the home of a man who was worth millions. The panelling in the stairway was almost identical to the panelling my late in-laws had in their second last home, which was built in the 1930’s.

A Fascinating Day Out

It’s so cool to walk round a historic home that looks like it is still actually being lived in. I had a real sense of the character of the occupants. The property gives a great taste of what it might have been a member of the upper middle class in the 1930’s.

Nuffield Place is a fascinating property to visit. The house has a friendly, comfortable feel to it and there are lots of beautiful gardens to walk round.

The feeling I took away was one of living history. While Lord and Lady Nuffield may no longer be with us, the home they created together lives on in a small corner of the Oxfordshire countryside at Nuffield Place.

For more information and opening times, please visit the National Trust website.

More Historic Places to Visit in England

Grey’s Court – A Charming Tudor Country House

A Visit to Windsor Castle

The University of Oxford Botanical Gardens

Visiting Hampton Court Palace

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Article by April Harris

April has written 1281 great articles for us.

April is a writer, recipe developer, frequent traveller and blogger sharing travel, food, and style. Based in the south of England, April is a British Canadian who is passionate about family, hearth and home, healthy living (with treats!) and the transformative power of travel.

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  1. I love places like this! Especially when they’re full of furniture and not just empty rooms! Great photos, the whole place really does look homely! 🙂

  2. I love exploring historic homes, this sounds like a great place to visit! Thanks for sharing at What’d You Do This Weekend? I hope you will join us again this Monday!

  3. Wow, this would be such a fun place to visit, especially with the feeling that they could return at any moment. I would probably stand and stare at each room forever if I could, just to get a feeling for what it must have been like to live back then. Such a beautiful place, and I love their story. Thanks so much for sharing at Inspire Me Wednesday, April. Featuring you in this week’s issue.

  4. This looks amazing! I just love these historical places. They always remind me of Downton Abbey 🙂

  5. Very interesting…The Wright Brothers started with a bike shop and ended up building an airplane. 🙂 Some people are just born with it. A warm and comforting home.

    • It is, isn’t it, MJ! Some people are so talented! It really does feel like someone’s home when you go through it, almost like the people might return at any moment 🙂

  6. I would love to visit there! Did Lord and Lady Nuffield ever have children? And, they lived through WWII in that house! I wonder what it was like during that time? It all fascinates me. Thanks so much for sharing it.

    • I wonder what it was like during WWII as well, Helen. Although Nuffield Place is nestled in the countryside, it is very near to several military and air force bases (many of which are still there today). It could potentially have been quite noisy and a bit scary too! Lord and Lady Nuffield never did have children of their own.

  7. April, I missed this post! Glad you mentioned it. I would really enjoy visiting this place, especially because of what I’ve just learned her about the former occupants.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Jean. It really is a fascinating place and Lord and Lady Nuffield were very interesting people. I was blown away by the amount of charitable giving they did, and by the effect it had.

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