Sir Philip Sassoon, 3rd Baronet – Sir Philip Albert Gustave David Sassoon

Sir Philip Albert Gustave David Sassoon, 3rd BaronetGBECMG (4 December 1888 – 3 June 1939), was a British politician, art collector and social host, entertaining many celebrity guests at his homes, Port Lympne, Kent, and Trent Park, Hertfordshire, England.

English: British politician Sir Philip Sassoon...

Sir Philip Sassoon as a staff officer during World War I

Sassoon was a member of the prominent Sassoon family and Rothschild family.

His father was Sir Edward Albert Sassoon, 2nd Baronet, MP, son of Albert Abdullah David Sassoon.

His mother was Aline Caroline, daughter of Baron Gustave de Rothschild. His sister was Sybil Sassoon, who married the Marquess of Cholmondeley.

He was a cousin of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon.

A second lieutenant in the East Kent Yeomanry, Sassoon served as private secretary to Field Marshal Haig during the First World War.

He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Hythe from 1912, succeeding his father, initially as the „Baby of the House„. He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Lloyd George in 1920. Between 1924 and 1929 and again from 1931 until 1937 he served as Under-Secretary of State for Air, and gained much prominence in political circles. In 1937 he became First Commissioner of Works, a post which he held until his death two years later.

 

He had a reputation for being one of the greatest hosts in Britain. Herbert Baker designed one house for him in 1912, Port Lympne, later thePort Lympne Wild Animal Park, in Kent, and Philip Tilden largely re-built another at Trent Park, Cockfosters, from 1923. Stylistic differences between the two houses illustrate changes in taste among members of British high society of the period. Trent Park possessed a landscape designed by Humphrey Repton but the existing house was Victorian and undistinguished. Sassoon and his designers turned it into one of the houses of the age, „a dream of another world – the white-coated footmen serving endless courses of rich but delicious food, the Duke of Yorkcoming in from golf… Winston Churchill arguing over the teacups with George Bernard ShawLord Balfour dozing in an armchair, Rex Whistler absorbed in his painting… while Philip himself flitted from group to group, an alert, watchful, influential but unobtrusive stage director – all set against a background of mingled luxury, simplicity and informality, brilliantly contrived…“[1] This atmosphere, as Clive Aslet has suggested, represented a complete about-face from Sir Philip’s earlier extravagance at Port Lympne to what Aslet called „an appreciation of English reserve.“[2] In the words of Christopher Hussey, at Trent Sassoon caught „that indefinable and elusive quality, the spirit of a country house… an essence of cool, flowery, chintzy, elegant, unobtrusive rooms that rises in the mind when we are thinking of country houses.“[3]

Neither the eye-popping interiors nor the extravagant gardens at Port Lympne could be described as in any way „reserved“, or even „English“.Mark Girouard has written of the „quiet good taste expected of a country gentleman“[4] against which Philip may have chafed in his younger years, apparently torn between the standards of Country Life and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. His Ballets Russes-inspired dining room at Port Lympne with its lapis walls, opalescent ceiling, gilt-winged chairs with jade-green cushions, all surmounted by a frieze of scantily-clad Africans, suggests the outsider confidence of a Rothschild and of an openly gay man.[5] Philip Tilden added a bachlor’s wing with Moorish courtyard to accommodate young airmen from nearby Romney Marsh flying field – among his other enthusiasms, Sir Philip was himself an aviator – which Lady Honor Channon, (wife of Chips), unkindly described as a Spanish brothel[6] – and Tilden’s twin swimming pools and monumentally classical garden staircase were in much the same theatrical spirit.

 

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