Thursday July 18th 2024

Mentmore Towers, Buckinghamshire
'Wayne Manor' in Batman Begins: the 19th century Mentmore Towers, Mentmore, Buckinghamshire | Photograph: Alamy / Robert Stainforth

A tale of two Wayne Manors

There’ve been plenty of Wayne Manors on-screen over the years but the grand estate in Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy is a bit of a teaser.

There’s the original mansion in Batman Begins which is burned down.

There’s no mansion in The Dark Knight, only a glitzy penthouse where Bruce Wayne slums it while his home is rebuilt.

Then there’s Wayne Manor 2.0, the faux-Tudor modern copy, in The Dark Knight Rises.


Except it’s not.

The concept that the modern imitation, recently built to replace a 19th century mansion destroyed by fire, could prove to be the original 16th century manor which inspired the design of the burned house is a plot twist worthy of Tenet's tangled timelines.

It's like this – the first Wayne Manor in Batman Begins is Mentmore Towers in the village of Mentmore in Buckinghamshire.

It’s a Victorian mansion built in 1854 for the Rothschild banking family, copying the then-fashionable Jacobean style of more than 200 years earlier.

It’s pretty much what a very wealthy 19th century industrialist would have commissioned, even in Gotham City, USA.

Mentmore has had a patchy history, being sold several times, becoming the HQ of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's transcendental meditation movement before plans to turn it into a luxury hotel fell through, and its use as a Golf and Country Club failed. It stands unused apart from occasionally being used as a movie location (Brazil, Eyes Wide Shut, The Mummy Returns, Johnny English, etc).

Fair enough.

But Victorian mansions were often ersatz copies of original Jacobean manor houses. Mentmore is no exception. Its design was based loosely on the genuinely Elizabethan Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, in the East Midlands.

Wollaton Hall, Nottingham
'Wayne Manor' in The Dark Knight Rises, exterior: the 17th century Wollaton Hall in Nottingham

Wollaton was the real deal, built in 1588 for another industrialist, Sir Francis Willoughby.

Wollaton still stands and now houses a wonderful old-school style Natural History museum – lots of stuffed exotic animals back in the day when they were enthusiastically "collected" (and perhaps giving a clue why many species became endangered in the first place).

Most impressive is a collection of magnificently delicate glass reconstructions of transparent jellyfish and other sea creatures.

So what of the rebuilt Wayne Manor in The Dark Knight Rises?

Yes, with magnificent irony, the replacement "modern" Manor is the genuinely 16th century Late Elizabethan Wollaton Hall, which inspired Mentmore's design centuries later.

But what of the inside? Bruce Wayne’s rebuilt home shows no trace of stuffed gorillas or glass shrimps.

The interior of the "new" Wayne Manor is that of Osterley Park House, Isleworth in West London. And this too is older than Mentmore.

Osterley Park House entrance hall, West London
'Wayne Manor' in The Dark Knight Rises, interior: the 18th century Osterley Park House, Isleworth, West London

Osterley was originally built in 1570 but after being remodelled by the great architect Robert Adam in 1765, it’s now considered Georgian. It’s a National Trust property and open to visitors.

First, Victorian then Elizabethan and Georgian.

Don't worry. It’s a timey-wimey thing.

Batman Begins

The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight Rises

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Visit: Nottinghamshire

Visit: Wollaton Hall, Gardens & Deer Park, Wollaton Park, Wollaton, Nottingham, NG8 2AE (tel: 0115.8763100)

UK | London

Flights: Heathrow Airport; Gatwick Airport

Visit: London

Travelling: Transport For London

Visit: Osterley Park House, Jersey Road, Isleworth, TW7 4RB (tel: 020.8232.5050)