Once upon a time, when you went to the Cotswolds, the treat for Saturday morning was antiquing in the small towns of Broadway and Stow-on-the-Wold. Nowadays, the mecca is the original Daylesford Organic near the village of Moreton-in-Marsh.
Carole Bamford opened it 20 years ago. Daylesford was not the first of its kind—Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, opened the Chatsworth Farm shop in the 70s—but it was the best. Healthy food, vegetables polished like jewels, exquisite housewares, luxurious beauty products, fabulous flowers, and even fashion.
It was everything you didn’t know you needed, and it left a hot, sick, wanting feeling in the Barbour-jacket-wearing, Le Chameau–booted denizens of what has become, as designer Nicky Haslam calls it, “the Couttswolds” (a nod to Queen Elizabeth’s private bankers). Small wonder “Very Daylesford” has become a transatlantic synonym for “chic.”
And now Carole Bamford is opening a club. Holistic, not hedonistic like neighbors Soho Farmhouse, the Hive at the Francombe Estate, or the Fitzdares Club, which has both posh gambling and golf. At the Club by Bamford, the 82-foot pool is constructed of recycled stainless steel, heated by a biomass boiler, and filtered by recycled glass. Its excess water is re-purposed on the 3,500-acre farm.
The furniture is made with Daylesford oak and leather; 280 solar panels provide electricity; and even the bathrobes and towels are certified organic, washed in water-efficient machines and dried with renewable energy. Phew!
After a spin class, an ice bath, or cryotherapy, one can recover with handmade sausage rolls, botanical cocktails, and chargrilled artichoke hearts.
When I grow up, I want to be Lady Bamford of Daylesford and Wootton. Not for her title—her husband, Anthony, was given his barony by his neighbor David Cameron, who was prime minister at the time. Nor for her wealth, which is considerable, since Lord Bamford is chairman of his family company, JCB, and allegedly worth $6.4 billion. Not even for her yacht, the château and vineyard in France, the house in Barbados, or the private airplane. The most seductive thing about her is her taste.
Oh, I do covet Daylesford House, a gorgeous Georgian Grade 1 pile bought from Baron Hans Thyssen-Bornemisza. It has all of the trademarks of the English country gentlewoman: log fires, fresh flowers, soft lights, and scented candles.
Once, not long after I arrived for drinks, a gardener stopped manicuring a hedge with nail scissors to inform me of a flat tire. As I assumed the clutched-pearl position, he said, “Madam, do not worry—it will be dealt with.” It was. When Anthony Bamford later escorted me out to my little Fiat 500—he collects rare Ferraris—the puncture was mended, and the car had been washed.
Lady Bamford’s “Carols and Caviar” Christmas party is the most glamorous in London. On her 60th birthday, the tables were made to surround the trees in the Daylesford House orchard so that the trees themselves became the blossoming centerpieces. When she and Anthony celebrated their 70th birthdays in India, guests were flown by private planes, with their initials embroidered on the linens.
“Very Daylesford” has become a transatlantic synonym for “chic.”
Bamford loves setting the scene more than the party itself. In another life, she’d have been a theater set designer. Her address book includes the greatest and the grandest, from King Charles III downwards. The most controversial entry belongs to Boris Johnson; the Bamfords are among his most loyal supporters. After leaving Downing Street, Johnson and his wife, Carrie Symonds, and the couple’s children have been shuttling between a cottage on the Bamfords’ Cotswolds estate and their London home, located around the corner from Harrods. Johnson and Symonds even held their post-pandemic wedding reception on the Daylesford estate.
But few know that Lady Bamford has educated 150,000 children in India or that making the plates for her five shops—the other four are in London—supports entire villages on the subcontinent by employing potters, weavers, and artisans.
Early in their marriage, the Bamfords drove around India knocking on bicycle-repair-shop doors to suggest that JCB machinery could be used to repair the roads. “One day as we were driving I saw children breaking stones to fill the potholes,” she says. “So I stopped the car and asked why they were not in school. It was because they had no shoes. So we bought 300 pairs. I went to the school and the master had a whip, so we took it over. The village was mud huts, so we bought it and installed clean water and medical care.”
The pattern has been repeated in 25 villages, two of which, in Rajasthan, make all the Christmas decorations for Daylesford House. Nila House, Bamford’s workshop in Jaipur, specializes in textiles. “We teach the women how to plant cotton, then dye it with indigo in the traditional way,” she says. In Savannah, Georgia, “Lady B,” as her staff call her, has built a day school and nursery for children from low-income, troubled backgrounds. “Wherever Anthony starts a factory, I do something [charitable]. You can’t be successful and not give back—that is the privilege.”
Petite and blonde, she is looking spiffy in Bamford’s new-season Mediterranean blue jacket. She is authentic, genuinely surprised that “Very Daylesford” is a New York term of endearment. “I think of myself as more Coastal Grandmother,” she says.
Bamford loves setting the scene more than the party itself. In another life, she’d have been a theater set designer.
She is a perfectionist, but a cozy one. “I like things to be warm, to glow,” she says. And they do in her pubs, the Fox at Oddington and the Wild Rabbit in Kingham, which have open fires and proper roast for Sunday lunch. They are patronized by every man, woman, and Labrador of the Chipping Norton set—among them Jeremy Clarkson, Elisabeth Murdoch, and Rachel Whetstone, chief communications officer at Netflix.
But Bamford never had a business plan. “I am inspired by nature, and I believe in instinct,” she says. She was pushing her baby daughter Alice in her pram when she saw her roses wilting from the Roundup chemical pesticide that had been used on the farmland. So she decided to take the farm organic.
That’s where it all began, with sad roses. It ends—for now—with happy club members paying $400 a month to join her wellness Nirvana.
I remember having lunch with Lady Bamford at Daylesford Organic around the time that she published her 2018 book, Nurture, which has a save-the-planet vibe. “I’m not perfect,” she told me, as we said our good-byes. “I’m about to take a helicopter back to London.”
Victoria Mather is a veteran travel writer based in London. She has edited travel coverage for Tatler, The Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard, and Vanity Fair