Lady Baillie, as she was to become after her third marriage, decided to recreate a largely medieval castle and initially commissioned architect Owen Little. The ground floor of the New Castle was reorganised, with the creation of an inner hall, the construction of the stone staircase and the transformation of the great hall into a library. For the even more challenging work required in the Gloriette and the upper floors of the New Castle, Lady Baillie turned to Armand-Albert Rateau (1882-1938) noted particularly for his work in the Art Deco style.
He created a glorious Gothic fantasy for her. The Banqueting Hall previously divided into china closet, kitchen and scullery, was restored to its full size; the Chapel was completely dismantled and became a music room; a handsome newel staircase brought in from France, was constructed against the south wall of the fountain court and hidden behind a fine screen; the upper floors were rearranged to allow the introduction of modern plumbing; and the service quarters were completely modernised.
During the 1930s, Leeds Castle became one of the great country houses of England and a centre of lavish hospitality for leading statesmen, European royalty and film stars.
As her tastes changed, Lady Baillie entrusted the design of her interiors to Stephane Boudin (1888-1967), president of Maison Jansen, a leading design firm in Paris. He was considered the foremost designer of grand interiors in the French taste and his other clients included the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Jacqueline Kennedy. The glamourous and luxurious interiors that he created at Leeds Castle from 1932 onwards can still be seen today. A high point of his work is Lady Baillie’s bedroom suite, with its delicate Louis XVI style panelling.
External work included the transformation of the Maiden’s Tower from Brewhouse to comfortable bachelor apartments and a cinema; the renovation of the gatehouse; the construction of tennis courts, a squash court and a swimming pool, complete with wave machine; and the re-landscaping of the park – there were even llamas and zebras in the grounds.
After the war Lady Baillie continued to improve her interiors still with the help of Boudin. The war had interrupted their progress, so they resurrected their plans and in 1948 a new dining room and adjoining library were created.
In the Gloriette, a new bedroom suite was created for her son Gawaine and a new Boudoir for Lady Baillie herself showcased the best of her French furniture and art. The Maiden’s Tower was transformed into a family home for her daughter Susan and her growing family.
Lady Baillie died in 1974 and left the castle and grounds to a specially created charity called the Leeds Castle Foundation, whose main aim was, and still is, to preserve the castle for future generations to enjoy.
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