Tyntesfield, south side
The house is named after the Tynte baronets, who had owned estates in the area since about 1500. The location was formerly that of a 16th-century hunting lodge, which was used as a farmhouse until the early 19th century. In the 1830s a Georgian mansion was built on the site, which was bought by English businessman William Gibbs. In the 1860s Gibbs had the house significantly expanded and remodelled; a chapel was added in the 1870s. The Gibbs family owned the house until the death of Richard Gibbs in 2001.
Tyntesfield was acquired by the National Trust in June 2002, after a fundraising campaign to prevent it being sold to private interests and ensure it would be open to the public. The house was opened to visitors for the first time just 10 weeks after the acquisition, and as more rooms are restored they are added to the tour. The mansion was visited by 189,329 people in 2012, a fall of 8.5 per cent on the previous year.
- 1 History
- 2 Owners of Tyntesfield
- 3 National Trust purchase
- 4 Estate
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The land on which the house and its estate were developed was originally part of the Tynte family estate; this family had lived in the area since the 1500s, and was based between Halswell House in Goathurst near Bridgwater to the south, and Berkeley, Gloucestershire in the north.
By the late 1700s, John Tynte owned what is now the Tyntesfield estate; at that time the house was approached by an avenue of elm trees, planted after they were bequeathed in the 1678 will of Sir Charles Harbord to the people of Wraxall in memory of two boys he had apprenticed from the village. The Tynte's had originally lived on the estate, but by the early 1800s, John had made Chelvey Court in Brockley his principal residence, downgrading Tyntes Place to a farmhouse he leased to John Vowles. In 1813, George Penrose Seymour of the adjoining Belmont estate purchased the property and gave it to his son, the Rev. George Turner Seymour. He in turn built a new Georgian mansion on the site of the former Saddler’s Tenement, and then demolished the old farmhouse.
Purchase by the Gibbs family
In 1843, the property was bought by businessman William Gibbs, who had made his fortune from his family business, Antony Gibbs & Sons. Antony Gibbs, William's father, from Clyst St Mary, Devon, had after a roller-coaster career become wealthy through the import and marketing of guano as a fertilizer from South America. The firm's profits from this trade were such that William Gibbs became the richest non-noble man in England.
Throughout his life, William Gibbs and his wife Matilda Blanche Crawley-Boevey (known as Blanche), principally lived in London, for the greater part of his marriage at 16 Hyde Park Gardens, which the family owned until Blanche's death. However, as he travelled regularly on business to the Port of Bristol he required a residence in the area; thus it was, in 1843, he came to buy Tyntes Place, which he subsequently renamed Tyntesfield. Within a few years of making his purchase, Gibbs was to begin a large program of rebuilding and enlarging of the mansion.
The architectural style selected for the rebuilding was a loose Gothic combining many forms and reinventions of the medieval style. The choice of Gothic architecture was influenced by William and Blanche Gibb's Anglo-Catholic beliefs as a followers of the Oxford Movement. This wing of the Anglican Church advocated the view set out in the architect Augustus Pugin's 1836 book Contrasts. The book argued for the revival of the medieval Gothic style, and also "a return to the faith and the social structures of the Middle Ages". The Oxford Movement, of which both Pugin and Gibbs were disciples, later took this philosophy a step further and claimed that the Gothic style was the only architecture suitable for Christian worship. Thus, the Gothic style became a symbolic display of Christian beliefs and lifestyle and was embraced by devout Victorians such as Gibbs. The completion of the mansion's chapel further accentuated the building's medieval monastical air so beloved by the Oxford Movement's devotees. When completed, the ecclesiastical design was reinforced by a dominating, square tower with steeply pitched roof adorned by four tourelles. This was demolished in 1935.
In 1854 William Gibbs commissioned John Gregory Crace, an architect he was already using elsewhere, to redesign and decorate the principal rooms at Tyntesfield. These new designs included gilded panelling, woodwork, moulding and chimneypieces all in the Gothic style.
Rebuilding work did not begin in earnest until 1863, when with John Norton as architect and William Cubitt & Co. as sub-contracted builders, William Gibbs had the property substantially remodelled in a Gothic Revival style. Norton's design enveloped the original house. He added two new wings, an extra floor and towers. Norton emphasised the restoration of architectural continuity relating to several different historical periods. As a result, while some walls remained plain, others were decorated with a mixture of Gothic and naturalistic carvings.
The house is built of two types of Bath Stone, and is highly picturesque, bristling with turrets and possessing an elaborate roof. The combined effect of the architecture and chosen materials has been described by journalist Sir Simon Jenkins as "severe". During restoration, stonemasons either conserved and occasionally copy-carving new elements, carving new mouldings to replace standard architectural elements that formed the weathering, as well repointing most of the miles of lime pointing. All stone was accurately matched to the original, with Cotswold oolitic limestone from Veyzeys quarry near Tetbury. The house, which includes the servants' wing and the chapel, was made a Grade II* listed building in 1973, and has since been upgraded to Grade I.
The front (facing east over the gardens towards towards Backwell Hill) and north (entrance courtyard) are faced in one shade of ochreous Bath Stone, while the south (rear), which is mainly allocated to the service area and servants quarters, is faced in cheaper red-tinged Draycott marble rubble, and has some plastered finishes. All facades have many Gothic main windows, Tudor oriel windows, chimneys and attic dormers. Norton topped the design with an irregular roof, its various pitches and gables emphasising the building's asymmetrical architecture. The final external addition was a huge ironwork conservatory by Hart, Son, Peard and Co. to the rear. The end result was described by novelist Charlotte Mary Yonge, a cousin of Blanche Gibbs, as "like a church in spirit".
The interiors were also in the Gothic style. Crace was again engaged to remodel the interiors, in some places extending or adapting his initial works, in others providing new schemes. Other notable elements of the house include glass by Powell and Wooldridge, mosaics by Salviati, and ironwork by Hart, Son, Peard and Co. George Plucknett was Cubitt's foreman, who was related to James Plunkett of Collier and Plucknett, furniture makers of Warwick. The result was that Gibbs ordered a number of specially commissioned pieces from the firm, including a fully fitted bathroom for his wife. All of these fine pieces of craftsmanship were added to by Gibb's expanding collection of artworks.
While the reconstruction on the house was being undertaken, William Gibbs had rented Mamhead Park in Devon. The total cost of redevelopment to create a house with 23 main bedrooms and 47 in total including servants' accommodation came to £70,000 (£5,670,000 as of 2013). The sum was equivalent to 18 months gross profit from all of Gibbs's business interests. After completion of the main building works, Gibbs created more cash by selling shares in Antony Gibbs & Sons to his nephew Henry Hucks Gibbs (later Lord Aldenham), which enabled him to purchase two adjoining properties – including Belmont to the east from his nephew George Lewis Monck Gibbs – to create a farming estate, founded on dairy production and forestry management. Added to further by later land purchases, at its peak the Tyntesfield estate spanned over 6,000 acres (2,400 ha), encompassing 1,000 acres (400 ha) of forestry, from Portishead in the north to south of the valley in which the main house lay. The house and estate employed more than 500 workers.
Gibbs' final addition to Tyntesfield was added between 1872 and 1877, when he commissioned Arthur Blomfield to add a Gothic chapel to the northside of the house. Modelled on Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, it housed an organ by William Hills & Sons, and below a vault in which Gibbs intended to be buried. However, combined opposition from both the vicar of the local All Saints Church, Wraxall and the church's patron, a member of the Gorges family, led to the Bishop of Bath and Wells decreeing that he would not sanction the consecration of Tyntesfield's chapel, through fears that it would take power away from the local population fully into Gibb's hands. Despite this, the chapel formed a central part of life at Tyntesfield, and prayers were said twice-daily by the family and their guests. Throughout their period of residence, the family would also open the chapel to local people on an annual basis, often during Rogation days and at Christmas. In praise of the resultant final building, Yonge hailed the chapel as the necessary culmination of the Tyntesfield project, giving "a character to the household almost resembling that of Little Gidding", the Huntingdonshire home of Nicholas Ferrar during the reign of Charles I who was much idealized by 19th century Anglo-Catholics.
Owners of Tyntesfield
William Gibbs: 1846–1875
William and Matilda had seven children and eighteen grandchildren. The family were devout Anglicans, and William and his wife were supporters of the Oxford Movement. He was a major benefactor of Keble College, Oxford, and dedicated the later part of his life to philanthropic works. Also being teetotal, he added to the estate's holding by buying the local Failand Inn, which enabled him to control any riotous behaviour (it was sold to Courage Brewery in 1962 by the second Lord Wraxall). William Gibbs died at Tyntesfield on 3 April 1875. After a service at the estate chapel on 9 April, his coffin was carried to All Saints Church, Wraxall by relays of 30 estate workers rather than in a carriage. He is buried within the family plot in the church grounds.
The estate then passed to William's eldest son Antony. After graduating with a Master of Arts degree from Exeter College, Oxford, he joined the North Somerset Yeomanry where he attained the rank of Major. He married Janet Louisa Merivale on 22 June 1872, and returned to Tyntesfield to manage the family estate. Antony held various positions of authority, including Justice of the Peace and later Deputy Lieutenant of Somerset. The couple had 10 children.
During the 1880s, Antony had the hallway staircase reconfigured by Henry Woodyer to let in more light from the glazed lantern roof, which allowed more light to permeate the lower floors and hence turn the hallway into a reception room. Woodyer also extended the Dining Room by taking in part of the original housekeeper's room. Crace's original wallpaper – a British imitation of Japanese paper, that itself imitated Spanish tooled leather – was lightened by a 14-year-old apprentice who hand-painted in a cream background. The sideboard, which had been commissioned from Collier and Plucknett and later enlarged, was further extended. New items were also ordered from Collier and Plucknett. Simultaneously, Antony had electricity installed. This made Tyntesfield one of the first houses in the UK to have electricity. Antony spent the first night after turning on the electrical system watching the main entrance light, to ensure that it did not create a fire and was hence safe for his family. At some point between 1868 and 1884 a water hydraulic lift was installed by Waygood and Co., the remains of which were discovered in 2008. A wooden lift car was discovered on the ground floor and a 55 inches (1,400 mm) spanning sheave in the roof space.
George Abraham Gibbs, 1st Baron Wraxall: 1907–1931
George Abraham Gibbs, 1st Baron Wraxall served as a colonel in the North Somerset Yeomanry and served heroically in the Boer War campaign. On his return to England he married the Hon. Victoria Florence de Burgh Long; the couple moved to Clyst St George in Devon. Between 1918 and 1928, he served as MP for Bristol West and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Wraxall in 1928, for which his appointment as Treasurer of the Household had been instrumental.
Under his ownership, the Drawing Room was redecorated in a Renaissance Venetian style, In the process, Crace's stencilling was over painted and then covered by damasked silk, the Norton fireplace was removed, the furniture replaced with Edwardian pieces, and the carpet dyed by Sketchleys. In 1917, to assist the war effort, the ironwork conservatory was razed, and its ironwork melted down for ammunition.
Survived by a daughter, Albina, George's first wife died at Tyntesfield from influenza in 1920. In 1927, George married Ursula Mary Lawley. The couple had two sons, George (known as Richard) and Eustace. George died at Tyntesfield on 28 October 1931, aged 58, from pneumonia.
Ursula Gibbs: 1931–1979
The young widow Ursula Gibbs was left with two children under two years of age, little income, and a large estate. She was noted for her efficiency and practicality; hence in 1935, when the clock-tower which was the focal point of the house needed substantial repairs to overcome dry and wet rot, she simply had it disassembled, with the metal parts stored for possible later usage and the roof realigned as if the clock tower had never existed.
During World War II, Clifton High School was relocated to the property, and in 1941, the U.S. Army Medical Corps established a facility for wounded soldiers, known as the 74th General Hospital, in the estate grounds. The construction of this temporary tented village resulted in the US Army Engineers breaching what was then England's longest holly hedge. With many tents later replaced by prefabricated buildings and some nissen huts, at one point in the war following D-Day it became the largest US Army hospital in Europe. During the hostilities, management of the estate's farmland was assumed by the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), leaving Lady Wraxall only the Home Farm.
Bombs often landed on the estate during the blitz of Bristol. In September 1940, during a raid on the Bristol Aeroplane Company factory at Filton, bombs cut off the estate's water supply, and during a later raid, one bomb badly damaged the lantern roof light over the hallway. After the end of the war, in 1946, Lady Wraxall applied to the Ministry of Defence for a repair grant, but was turned down. As a result damp, and latterly birds, entered the house through the roof light, until the house came into the ownership of the National Trust and was repaired.
Richard Gibbs, 2nd Baron Wraxall: 1979–2001
George Richard Lawley Gibbs, known as Richard, was born on 16 May 1928, and was educated at Eton College and Sandhurst. He spent eight years with the Coldstream Guards. After retiring from the Army to run the estate, he was involved with the Territorial Army and was a Deputy Lieutenant for the county of Avon. He never married and was succeeded by his brother, Sir Eustace Gibbs, a diplomat, who became the third Baron Wraxall.
National Trust purchase
Concerned with the demolition and desecration of various historic country houses since the end of the Second World War – 450 great houses were completely demolished in England between 1945 and 1955 – in the 1970s the National Trust commissioned architect Mark Girouard to catalogue and assess the remaining Victorian country houses across the United Kingdom for significance and structural integrity. He published his findings in a report, and later in the book The Victorian Country House, which in the revised second edition of 1976 included Tyntesfield as allowing access. With the Trust as a result placing Tyntesfield second on its list of priorities for preservation, Girouard said of the property:
There is no other Victorian country house which so richly represents its age as Tyntesfield.
In his later life, Richard Gibbs recognised that the diverse interests of the large family, and the need to invest heavily in even basic refurbishment of the house to make it weather-secured and habitable, would require the family to sell Tyntesfield. Recognising also that substantial death duties would become payable on his death, Richard drew up a will based around a trust which would allow his fortune to pass to the surviving children of his brother and half sister, a total of 19 beneficiaries.
When Richard died, the trust that he had set up stated that, should the trustees agree by majority that the estate should be sold, such a sale should be completed within 12 months, and to the highest bidder. The house and estate of 1,000 acres (400 ha) of farmland, 650 acres (260 ha) of woodlands, plus 30 houses and cottages, were listed for sale by Savills in three main lots (total estimated at £15 million); with Christie's contracted to secure the sale of the house and estate contents via a separate auction (total estimated at a further £15 million).
Having not bought a county house since the 1991 purchase of Chastleton House, which took seven years to open to the public, and competing with no special status amongst the bidders, the rumoured competitors to the Trust were listed by the media to have included composer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, and pop stars Madonna and Kylie Minogue. However, the new Director-General of the National Trust, Fiona Reynolds, launched a £35 million appeal in May 2002 via the "Save Tyntesfield" campaign, with support from designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, newsreader Jon Snow and several top architects and historians. The Trust's appeal collected £8.2 million in just 100 days, with: £3 million+ from the public; and two substantial anonymous donations of £1 million from the UK, and £4 million from the United States. The Trust also received £17.4 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund after negotiations with its chair, Liz Forgan, its largest single grant ever which caused some controversy. The National Lottery has earmarked a further £25 million for the major conservation work that is needed.
As a result of the auction, the former "Tyntesfield Estate" no longer exists as such:
- The National Trust purchased only the main central part of the Estate which comprises the house, the kitchen garden, and the park. The trust also sold off additional lands of part of the two packages from the sale that it bought. The resultant preserved house and surrounding gardens sat on a total of 150 acres (61 ha) of land are now simply known as Tyntesfield
- Charlton Farm, is now home to Children's Hospice South West, which provides palliative care to children with terminal illnesses.
- Charlton House was sold into private hands, having been since 1927 the home of the Downs School.
After taking ownership in 2002, National Trust staff secured the house and gardens, preserving them and the contents, and then catalogued the contents of the house which had been collected by the four generations of the family. Starting out with a staff of 30 volunteers, by 2013 the total of employed and volunteer staff exceeded 800 people, three times the number engaged by any other NT property.
- Repairing the roof: 20 times the size of the average British families home, it was covered by Europe's largest temporary free-standing scaffold roof structure, the size of 10 tennis courts. This allowed over 18 months repairs and restoration to take place, including the final restoration of the original bold red and black tiled geometric diaper pattern.
- Electrically rewiring the entire property with special cabling, copper sheathed (fire and rodent proofed). Undertaken by specialist contractor Haysham Ltd, the lights were chosen to model Victorian-levels of light from candles and later gas, so that additional light damage to the interiors is minimised
- Complete re-plumbing to replace much of the original lead piping
- Designing and then implementing a fireproofing scheme, mainly through the design of a suitable compartmentation system
- Exterior scaffolding: At the height of the restoration works, 28 miles (45 km) of scaffolding tubes enveloped the building's entire exterior.
- Interior scaffolding: installing scaffolding in the 43 feet (13 m) high hallway to repair the lantern rooflight, and to provide access to other high points of the interior.
The Trust had been reluctant to allow visitors to view the works and the house while it was under way, especially taking into account the costs of Health and Safety requirements and the delays these could cause to the essential preservation works. But the need for cash dictated the answer, and the Trust learnt that, through giving the public close access to the preservation works, they actually gave more additional donations as a result of seeing where their money was going and how they were making a difference.
Principal rooms include the library, drawing room, billiard room, dining room and chapel. Some of the ground-floor rooms and the chapel are currently open to the public. Restoration work is under way on the remainder of the house, which will gradually be opened to visitors as the work is completed.
The library is regarded as the most important gentleman’s library in the possession of the Trust. The carpet and some of the furnishings in the library were designed by Crace, whilst the book collection is the most extensive Victorian library collection owned by the Trust.
At the heart of the house is the hallway and staircase, which show the greatest number of changes since the original design.
Once the Trust took ownership, scaffolding was placed into the hallway to repair the roof lantern. This allowed architectural paint analyst Lisa Oestreicher to identify three principal phases of decoration in the public rooms and spaces: 1860s original; 1870s updates and adaptions; 1887–90 redecoration, which returned the main spaces to the original green colours and motifs created by Crace. Once lantern repairs were complete, the Trust replaced the elderly chenille carpet destroyed by contractors working for Christie's, with a new Wilton carpet with a replica design by Linney Cooper, bought for £45,000 from public lottery donations.
Christie's originally estimated the house contents at in excess of 10,000 items, but by 2008 a total of 30,000 items had been listed including: William Butterfield designed silver; original print books by Pugin and Ruskin; an unexploded Second World War bomb; a jewel-encrusted chalice; a roll of 19th-century flock wallpaper; and a coconut with carved face and hair. By 2013 the inventory had risen to 47,154 items, with still more rooms to unpack and catalog.
Many of the family's extensive collection of paintings, most sourced from Spain by William, were donated to the Trust. In part this was due to their poor condition, which involved not just water but also ironically guano damage. The most important painting in the collection is the 17th-century painting of St Lawrence attributed to Zambrano, which hangs in the centre of one wall of the hall. It was cleaned and repaired by local art conservators Bush and Berry, who work from a chapel built by William Gibbs in the village of Flax Bourton. In 2011, the Trust bought the painting The Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo at Christie's auction in New York, this had previously been hung at Tyntesfield from when William had purchased it until some time after 1910.
Home Farm Visitor Centre
The Home Farm buildings were built in the 1880s, split over two levels. To the south is a two-storey covered yard with a spectacular timber roof structure, used to rear farm animals. On the upper level is the main yard, where to the east and west are two wings, one side of which housed the former piggery. The farm offices make up the north wing, to fully enclose the square but gently south-sloping yard.
The GradeII* listed buildings needed full renovation, which took a secondary priority in the Trusts plans after the house. The Trust have converted the buildings into an integrated and self-contained visitor centre, which opened in mid-2011 with:
- Upper yard:
- Ticket and information office
- Demonstration area: country crafts from visiting crafts people
- Plant centre: excess plants raised by the gardeners are sold to raise funds
- Farm-themed play area
- Secondhand books stall: proceeds from which raise funds for the Trust
- Restaurant: the former two-story covered yard has been fully renovated and converted into a cafe/restaurant, and also houses the gift shop. A new-build staircase, lift and bridge walkway all in steel provide access from the upper yard
- A separate building to the east provides power and heat to the visitor centre, using a combined system of a biomass boiler, solar thermal panels and photovoltaic cells
The house sits within 150 acres (61 ha) of parkland, which the Trust gained from the auction and retained around the property to preserve the house within its environment. The wooded park leads down a tree-lined drive to balustraded terraces, and paths lead to the rose garden, summer houses, the aviary and the former concrete-lined lake (empty since WW2).
The Grade II* listed Orangery was once the architectural focal point of the kitchen garden complex. But when the Trust bought the property, the Orangery was in such a precarious state of deterioration that it was on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk Register in the highest priority category, A.
Built in 1897, it is a rare surviving example of a late Victorian orangery in the Classical style, constructed from ashlar and red brick. It has a seven-bay east/west plan with central entrances and three bays north/south, topped by a fully glazed ironwork hipped-roof. An entablature with protruding horizontal geison sits above Ionic half-column supports and corner pilasters. The centre entrance bay on the west front towards the kitchen garden breaks forward as a portico, with pairs of giant engaged columns and broken pediment with a small oculus. Between each pair of columns are large round-headed windows with Gibbs surrounds and keystones.
To preserve and restore the Orangery, the Trust teamed-up with City of Bath College and Nimbus Conservation Ltd in an innovative partnership, whereby 12 trainee stonemasons worked alongside professional craftsmen to hone their skills and carry out the specialist stonework needed. The Trust also introduced workshops for other restoration professionals, academics and eventually opened them to interested members of the public, where all were educated in a hands-on environment in the skills required to repair the building. For this crafts-based training initiative, in 2011 the Trust won a Daily Telegraph sponsored English Heritage Angel Award.
The budget for the works was £420,000, with initial work focused around stabilising the foundations and lower masonry. Much of this was achieved through the injection of stabilising materials into the foundations, which needed time to cure and solidify. Works then progressed to the walls and roof, and finally the decorative embellishments. Today, while part of the Orangery is a dedicated cafe, the rest is an international education centre of excellence for the Trust, training new craftsmen and restoration specialists.
The aviary at Tyntesfield is Grade II listed, and is situated to the west of the house, adjacent to the footings of the old conservatory. It was built in 1880 to house exotic birds, but was converted into a playhouse for Doreen, the first Lord Wraxall's daughter. The aviary is considered one of the most distinctive features of the estate.
Located on a site originally occupied by a foreman's office when the land was used for quarrying, the new sawmill building was completed in 1899, providing electricity via two enclosed steam engines and pneumatic power across the estate. The engines were housed in what is now called the Engine Room, whilst the multiple lead acid batteries were housed in the Lantern Room. After opening, the decision was made to relocate the estates entire sawmill to the building, to enable better access to electrical power. After the steam engines were replaced by diesel generators, mains electricity was provided from the national grid post-WW2. In the 1960s, the sawmill was decommissioned and all wood sold to third party contractors to be converted into sawn wood products.
Under the Trust's ownership the sawmill has been renovated and converted into a combined learning, educational and rentable function space for businesses and members of the public. It is most often used by National Trust staff and volunteers to educate visiting school groups. Half of the former wood shed was converted into a "bat palace" to create a new roost site for bat species living in the area, while the other half now houses a biomass boiler for the main house, saving 141 tonnes of CO2 a year over the old oil-fired boiler. The centre was opened in May 2009 by Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, who partially funded the works.
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- Wakefield, Ken (1994). Operation Bolero: The Americans in Bristol and the West Country 1942–45. Crecy Books. ISBN 978-0-947554-51-4.
- Wright, Peter (1990). Villages at War. ISBN 978-0-9516257-0-5.
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