From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the country house. For the safari park, see Longleat Safari Park.
Longleat House

Longleat is an English stately home and the seat of the Marquesses of Bath. It is adjacent to the village of Horningsham and near the towns of Warminster and Westbury in Wiltshire and Frome in Somerset. It is noted for its Elizabethan country house, maze, landscaped parkland and safari park. The house is set in over 1,000 acres (400 ha) of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown, with 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of let farmland and 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) of woodland, which includes a Center Parcs holiday village.[1] It was the first stately home to open to the public, and also claims the first safari park outside Africa.[2][3]

The house was built by Sir John Thynne and was designed mainly by Robert Smythson, after the original priory was destroyed by fire in 1567. It took 12 years to complete and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain. Longleat is occupied by Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, a direct descendant of the builder; however, the peer passed the management of the business to his son Viscount Weymouth early in 2010.

Longleat House and the Thynnes[edit]

A View of Longleat, Jan Siberechts, 1675
Drawing of Longleat from the early 18th century by Leonard Knyff
View over Longleat
Longleat maze

Longleat was previously an Augustinian priory. The name comes from "leat", an artificial waterway or channel such as that which supplies a watermill.

Sir Charles Appleton (1515–1580) purchased Longleat for Sir John Thynn in 1541 for £53. Appleton was a builder with experience gained from working on The Old School Baltonsborough, Bedwyn Broil and Somerset House. In April 1567 the original house caught fire and burnt down. A replacement house was effectively completed by 1580. Adrian Gaunt, Alan Maynard, Robert Smythson, the Earl of Hertford and Humpfrey Lovell all contributed to the new building but most of the design was Sir John's work. He was the first of the Thynne 'dynasty' – the family name was Thynn or Thynne in the 16th century, later consistently Thynne, but the present head of the family reverted to the spelling Thynn in the 1980s. Sir John Thynne's descendants were:

The house is still used as the private residence of the Thynn family.

Longleat House tour[edit]

The tour of the house comprises:

  • The Elizabethan Great Hall, with a minstrels' gallery
  • The lower east corridor, a wide room originally used as servant access to the main rooms. This now holds fine furniture and paintings. Also on display are two visitor books, one showing the signatures of Elizabeth II and Philip, the other Albert (George VI) and Elizabeth (the Queen Mother).
  • The ante-library, with a magnificent Venetian painting on the ceiling
  • The Red Library, which displays many of the 40,000 books in the house
  • The Breakfast Room, with a ceiling to match the ante-library
  • The Lower Dining Room
  • Stairs up, past a display of large early Meissen porcelain animals
  • The Bathroom and bath-bedroom: the bath is a lead-lined tub of coopered construction, originally filled by hand from buckets and drained the same way; taps and drains are now provided. The lead lining was replaced in 2005. The room holds the first plumbed in flush lavatory in the house.
  • The State Dining Room, with a Meissen porcelain table centrepiece
  • The Saloon
  • The State Drawing Room, designed by Crace
  • The Robes Corridor
  • The Chinese Bedroom
  • The Music Room, with instruments including a barrel organ
  • The Prince of Wales Bedroom, so named because of a large painting of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales the brother of Charles I
  • The upper west corridor
  • The Grand Staircase
  • The Banqueting suite on the top floor of Longleat, the dining table commissioned from John Makepeace and the chandelier from Jocelyn Burton

Events and filming[edit]

  • Longleat staged the Red Bull Air Race in 2005. The second Air Race event at Longleat took place in 2006 but was cancelled at the last minute due to poor weather conditions.
  • The Bollywood superhit film Mohabbatein starring Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan was filmed at Longleat, which served as the location for the Gurukul School.
  • The nature programme Animal Park is filmed at the park.
  • A copy of the painting The Fallen Madonna, a running joke from the BBC television sitcom 'Allo 'Allo, was made for Henry Thynne and hangs in Longleat House.[5][6]
  • It was transformed into 'Memory Manor', a laboratory to explore memory skills and the working of the brain for the BBC show How to Improve Your Memory.[7]
  • In the 1959 film Libel, Longleat is used as the estate of Dirk Bogarde's character.

Longleat Woods[edit]

Longleat Woods (grid reference ST795435) is a 249.9 ha (618 acres) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Somerset, notified in 1972.

Longleat Forest is also home to Center Parcs Longleat Forest, a holiday resort.

Additional information[edit]

Longleat Safari Park opened in 1966 as the first drive through safari park outside Africa, and is home to over 500 animals, including giraffe, monkeys, rhino, lion, tigers and wolves.[8][9] Cheetahs are the most recent additions to the safari park with six having arrived in August 2011.[10] Four lion cubs were born in September 2011, making a total of 10 cubs born this year, and Disney named two of them Simba and Nala as part of a co-promotion agreement for the upcoming Lion King 3D film.[11]

Longleat House was built in the sixteenth century by Sir John Thynn on the site of a dissolved priory, and in 1949 became the first stately home in Britain to be opened to the public on a commercial basis.[12][13][14] The house, park and attractions are open from mid-February to the start of November each year.[15] The 9,800-acre estate, of which the park occupies 900 acres, has long been one of the top British tourist attractions, and has motivated other large landowners to generate income from their heritage in response to rising maintenance costs.[16][17] Longleat leases 400 acres of land to Center Parcs for the operation of the Longleat Forest holiday village.[18]

Longleat Hotels offers accommodation at the Bishopstrow Hotel & Spa and the Homewood Park Hotel & Spa. Located in Warminster, Wiltshire, the Bishopstrow Hotel & Spa is set within Bishopstrow House and surrounded by 18th-century gardens alongside the River Wylye.[19][20] The Homewood Park Hotel & Spa is located in Homewood Park, Bath; Homewood Park is an award-winning, two AA-rosette Georgian country house hotel.[21][22][23]


  1. ^ "Spend a day at Longleat". BBC. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "The lions and loins of Longleat". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  3. ^ New Scientist, 2 December 1982, p. 554, at Google Books. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  4. ^ The Green Lady of Fyvie Castle
  5. ^ John Coles, TV Fallen Madonna found. The Sun, 9 December 2005. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  6. ^ Say ‘Allo’ to new Longleat feature, Wiltshire Times, 16 December 2005. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  7. ^ How to Improve Your Memory, shown 9 August 2006, BBC One. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  8. ^ Tourist Information UK
  9. ^ Picture The UK
  10. ^ Warminster Web
  11. ^ Heart FM
  12. ^ Longleat website
  13. ^ Stately-Homes.com
  14. ^ UKTV
  15. ^ Longleat website
  16. ^ Visit Bath
  17. ^ The Daily Telegraph
  18. ^ Warminster People
  19. ^ Daily Mail
  20. ^ This is Wiltshire
  21. ^ >
  22. ^ This is Bath
  23. ^ Wiltshire Times
  24. ^ Burke, Sir Bernard, (1938 ed) Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage. Shaw, London. p.243

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°11′11″N 2°16′31″W / 51.186472°N 2.275308°W / 51.186472; -2.275308