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).
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 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 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.
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