Miriam Rothschild and Ashton Wold

Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005) and Ashton Wold, Northamptonshire, Registered Grade II.

Miriam Rothschild was a naturalist, entomologist and conservationist, born at Ashton Wold. As a child she helped her father, Charles Rothschild, with his butterfly collecting here. He was a pioneer conservationist who founded the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves in 1912. 

Ashton Wold, a country house with formal gardens, was designed by William Huckvale in 1900. The house and gardens are set within a woodland enclave; the wider landscape was designed to provide natural habitats to attract wildlife.

The gardens are terraced with steps between terraces and there are three walled gardens, a large rectangular lily pond and a rock garden with a central thatched dovecote reached by a causeway of stepping stones.

To the south are meadows which merge into woodland concealing two lakes from the house. A path, following a boundary lined with old oak trees, leads down to the lakes which are overlooked by a thatched boat-house and a nature observation summerhouse.

Wildlife gardens

Miriam developed a preference for wildness over formality, covering the house in a tangle of carefully chosen creeping and flowering plants and transforming the terraces and lawns with wildflowers.

She planted out wild gardens within the formal gardens laid out by her father to attract rare species of insects and butterflies. The wild gardens included collections of orchids and other rare plant species.

Renowned entomologist

Her advocacy of wildflower gardening was particularly influential but Miriam is best known for her work as an entomologist, studying insects.

She was an international expert on fleas who investigated the jump of a flea as well as publishing a six-volume illustrated catalogue of fleas.

She was a Fellow of the Royal Society, the first woman to be a trustee of the British Museum (Natural History) in 1967, wrote over 300 publications and was appointed CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 1982 and DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2000 for her services to the study of natural history.