Queen Edith, the daughter of Earl Godwin, and wife of King Edward the Confessor had a hunting lodge at Mentmore, between the site of the present Mentmore Towers and the hamlet of Crafton at a site known as Berrystead. The well of this lodge is marked today by a wood still known as Prilow, derived from the Norman French pres l'ieu ("near the water").
In the 1808 Magnus Britannia the following was reported:
The parish church dedicated to St Mary the Virgin dates from the 14th century. It contains monuments to the Wigg and Theed families and one to Neil Primrose. It is a simple structure of three aisles and a clerestory. There is a peal of five bells recently restored. It was heavily restored by the Rothschild family in the 19th century.
The village manor house, built by the Wigg family as a 16th century half timbered structure, was refaced in redbrick, with a Georgian front extension in the mid 1700s. The Wiggs were lords of the manor from the 16th to 18th centuries.
The ownership eventually passed to the Harcourt or D'Harcourt families, until it was brought in 1850 from the trustees of three Harcourt sisters who had been left insolvent on the death of their father. The purchaser was Baron Mayer de Rothschild.
The Baron employed the leading architect of the day Joseph Paxton to build a new grandiose mansion; the site chosen because of its fine elevation, was that of the village itself. To a Rothschild this was no problem, the village was moved to the site it occupies today. In fairness to the Baron the villagers were living in semi-derelict hovels, and were probably only too pleased to be rehoused.
While Paxton and his son-in-law George Stokes worked on the mansion later to be known as Mentmore Towers, George Stokes also designed the first cottages for the new Mentmore. On the death of Baron Mayer in 1877 his heiress Hannah de Rothschild continued the building of the village using another architect George Devey (his work was a forerunner of the arts and crafts movement). These houses can be identified by the 'H de R' cypher on their gables. After her marriage to the 5th Earl of Rosebery the building continued with another architect John Aspell; at first glance his work appears similar to that of Devey, except a second glance will confirm there is less refinement and the construction would have been cheaper to build. These are the cottages which look more Elizabethan than arts and crafts. The Old Post Office in the centre of a block of housing is clearly Devy's work, yet the houses adjoining are clearly of a lesser hand. The Thatched or South Lodge is another of Devey's masterpieces, as is the former riding school with its stable yard – (now a housing complex).
Undeniably, one of the most attractive buildings in the village is 'The Old Dairy'; this building was designed by George Stokes in 1859, it is a pastiche of the Petite Hameau at Versailles. While intended as a functioning dairy, its verandas were also designed as a setting for Baroness Mayer de Rothschild's afternoon tea parties. This is one of the last buildings still to be owned by the Rosebery Estate. It is has been empty for several years and allowed to decay. In 2006 planning permission was granted to carry out substantial renovations which is now (July 2007) well underway.
At this time Anglo Saxon remains were found near the site of the present front drive of Mentmore Towers. The drives to the mansion are the original public highways, which were also re-routed at this time.
By 1880 the village and its new approach roads were more or less finished and must have looked much as they do today. The late 6th Earl of Rosebery who died in 1973 was fond of saying nothing had been built in Mentmore in his lifetime. While this was not strictly true, as both he and his father had built stable blocks at the stud farms, one could believe what he said. The only buildings not owned by him were the church and the vicarage. The vicarage, an austere high gabled Victorian building, built in the 1880s, was sold by the Church Commissioners in the 1960s and is now a private house.
In 1977, Towers, village and farms were put up for sale lock, stock and barrel. Today the village retains much of its old charm. The stable blocks are now developments of new housing, and executive style homes have been built in the village, yet Mentmore would still appears predominantly unchanged