Blaise Castle

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Blaise Castle House
Blaisecastlehouse.jpg
The mansion house at Blaise Castle Estate, in mid-July 2008.
Blaise Castle is located in Bristol
Blaise Castle
Location within Bristol
General information
Architectural style Georgian
Location Henbury Road, Henbury
Town or city Bristol BS10 7QS
Country England
Coordinates 51°30′14″N 2°37′55″W / 51.504°N 2.632°W / 51.504; -2.632
Construction started 1796
Completed 1798
Client John Harford
Design and construction
Architect William Paty
Blaise Castle
BlaiseCastleEstate(Castle).JPG
The castle at Blaise Castle Estate, in mid-July 2008.
General information
Architectural style Gothic castle
Town or city Bristol
Country England
Construction started 1766
Design and construction
Architect Robert Mylne
Blaise Castle (Estate)
Blaisewoods.JPG
The woods, at the Blaise Castle Estate, in mid-July 2008.
Type Public Park
Location Bristol, England
Area 650 acres (2.6 km2)
Operated by Bristol City Council
Open All year
Blaise Castle (Dairy House)
Blaisedairyhouse.JPG
The old dairy house at Blaise Castle Estate, in mid-July 2008.

Blaise Castle is an 18th-century mansion house and estate near Henbury in Bristol (formerly in Gloucestershire), England, now run as a museum by Bristol Museums. The museum is housed in a late 18th century, Grade II listed mansion. Blaise Castle was immortalised by being described (by a character who frequently lies) as "the finest place in England" in Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey. Along with Blaise Hamlet the parkland is listed, Grade II*, on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in England.[1]

The museum holds a variety of collections. The large Picture Room, addded in the 1830s, is hung with paintings, mostly of the 19th century. There are selections on display from Bristol Museums' 10,000 items of historic costume, and of toys from the 18th century to the 1980s. Other galleries have displays of historic domestic equipment used for lighting, cooking, cleaning, washing, including a display of toilets. A room fitted as a Victorian schoolroom is popular for re-enactment sessions with school groups.[2]

The key for the nearby Kings Weston Roman Villa can be collected at the museum.[3]

Early history[edit]

Flint fragments show Blaise Castle Estate was probably first inhabited by Neolithic farmers. There is more definitive evidence for Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman activity through the distinctive hill-forts in the area and other archaeological finds. The value of this historic landscape was recognised when it became a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1982.[4]

After the Anglo-Saxon invasion and subsequent conversion to Christianity, the land was granted to the Bishop of Worcester as part of the Kingdom of Mercia. During this time the estate picked up its association with Saint Blaise that lives on in the estate's name.

Blaise Castle House[edit]

The estate was owned by a sugar merchant, Thomas Farr, in the mid-18th century; he built the sham castle. Farr went bankrupt,[5] and it was bought by John Harford, a wealthy Bristol merchant and banker, who demolished the old house and had the present Blaise Castle House built in 1796–1798, designed by William Paty. It is a grade II* listed building,[6] though described by Simon Jenkins as "solid, simple and unexciting".[7] John Nash added a conservatory c. 1805-6, and in 1832-3, C.R. Cockerell designed the Picture Room for Harford's son. This now houses a fine display of paintings from Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Harford also had Blaise Hamlet built to house his servants and tenants, to designs of Nash and George Repton in 1811.

The estate was sold to Bristol Council in 1926, to preserve it from development.[8] A branch of the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery since 1949, Blaise Castle House now features collections relating to numerous household items in addition to its period interior decoration.

The castle[edit]

On a hill above the gorge is a sham castle in mock-Gothic style overlooking Bristol, Avonmouth and the Avon Gorge, with views across to South Wales on a clear day. It was a popular attraction, open to paying visitors, from which vessels could be seen passing on the River Avon.[9] The architect was Robert Mylne and the date of building 1766; it is now believed that the design and the choice of style may have had political connotations. Although referred to as a folly, it was inhabited well into the 20th century with sumptuous internal decoration. It is a grade II* listed building.[10]

The estate[edit]

The castle and its 650 acres (2.6 km2) of parkland are now open to the public (the 'folly' opens every 3rd Sunday afternoon of the month between April and October) and include modern visiting facilities and a car park.

The grounds were laid out by Humphry Repton (1752–1818) a leading landscape gardener. Parts of Repton's designs still exist, notably the impressive carriage drive which winds its way from the house. The Regency architect John Nash was responsible for the addition of the conservatory, and almshouses in the village.[11]

The grounds, which are open free of charge to the public, include a gorge cut by the Hazel Brook through Bristol's limestone. The gorge features a selection of stunning landscape, including Goram's Chair, a limestone outcrop often used by climbers, and Lover's Leap and Potter's Point, two panoramic viewing spots. Stratford Mill was re-erected within the gorge after Chew Valley Lake was flooded to form a reservoir. Ongoing renovations started in 2004 of the mill, settling ponds and associated estate pathways. At the gorge's southern end, Hazel Brook joins the River Trym, which continues its flow towards Sea Mills. Other features within the estate include two pools: the Giant's Soapdish and the Penny Well, and two caves: the Robber's Cave and the Butcher's Cave.

Kings Weston Hill, to the west of the castle, also forms part of the estate.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Blaise Castle and Hamlet". National Heritage List for England. Historic England. Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  2. ^ "What’s here at Blaise Castle House Museum?", and the pages leading from it.
  3. ^ Kings Weston Roman Villa, Bristol Museums
  4. ^ "Scheduled Ancient Monuments in Bristol" (PDF). Bristol City Council. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  5. ^ Jenkins, 683
  6. ^ "Blaise Castle House and attached wall". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  7. ^ Jenkins, 685
  8. ^ Jenkins, 685
  9. ^ Jenkins, 683
  10. ^ "Blaise Castle". Images of England. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  11. ^ Jenkins, 685

References[edit]

External links[edit]