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Coordinates: 51°11′09″N 2°16′27″W / 51.1857°N 2.2743°W / 51.1857; -2.2743
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Longleat House
The façade of Longleat House
TypeProdigy house
LocationWiltshire, England
Coordinates51°11′09″N 2°16′27″W / 51.1857°N 2.2743°W / 51.1857; -2.2743
ArchitectRobert Smythson
Architectural style(s)Elizabethan
OwnerMarquess of Bath
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameLongleat House
Designated11 September 1968
Reference no.1364361
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameStables at Longleat House
Designated11 September 1968
Reference no.1200342
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameOrangery With Walled Garden to Rear at Longleat House
Designated11 September 1968
Reference no.1036392
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameBoathouse and Covered Bridge at Longleat House
Designated11 September 1968
Reference no.1200450
Official nameLongleat
Designated1 September 1987
Reference no.1000439
Longleat is located in Wiltshire
Location of Longleat House in Wiltshire

Longleat is a stately home about 4 miles (7 km) west of Warminster in Wiltshire, England. A leading and early example of the Elizabethan prodigy house, it is a Grade I listed building and the seat of the Marquesses of Bath.

Longleat is set in 1,000 acres (400 ha) of parkland landscaped by Capability Brown, along 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 the Longleat estate has the first safari park outside Africa and other attractions including a hedge maze.

The house was built by Sir John Thynne and designed mainly by Robert Smythson, after Longleat 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. It continues to be the seat of the Thynn family, who have held the title of Marquess of Bath since 1789; the eighth and present Marquess is Ceawlin Thynn.


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' that have held unbroken ownership since the 16th century.[a]

Sir John's immediate descendants were Sir John Thynne the Younger (1555–1604) and then Sir Thomas Thynne (ca. 1578–1639). Thomas's secret marriage to his family's enemy is said to have inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet;[2] Sir James Thynne (1605–1670) employed Sir Christopher Wren to carry out modifications to the house; and was succeeded by Thomas Thynne (1646–1682), and then Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth (1640–1714) who started the house's large book collection. Formal gardens, canals, fountains and parterres were created by George London with sculptures by Arnold Quellin and Chevalier David. The Best Gallery, Long Gallery, Old Library and Chapel were all added by Christopher Wren.

Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth (1710–1751) married Louisa Carteret. Thomas Thynne, 1st Marquess of Bath (1734–1796) employed Capability Brown who replaced the formal gardens with a landscaped park and dramatic drives and entrance roads. Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath (1765–1837) employed Jeffry Wyatville to modernise the house and received advice from Humphrey Repton on the grounds. Wyatville demolished several parts of the house, including Wren's staircase, and replaced them with galleries and a grand staircase. He also constructed many outbuildings including the Orangery. Henry Thynne, 3rd Marquess of Bath (1797–1837) was succeeded by John Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath (1831–1896) who collected Italian fine arts. He employed John Crace, whose prior work included Brighton Pavilion, Woburn Abbey, Chatsworth House and the Palace of Westminster, to add Italian renaissance style interiors. Thomas Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath (1862–1946) inherited in 1896. During World War I, the house was used as a temporary hospital. During World War II, it became the evacuated Royal School for Daughters of Officers of the Army. An American hospital was also constructed in the grounds; Henry Thynne, 6th Marquess of Bath (1905–1992) inherited in 1946. Faced with considerable death duties he sold large parts of the wider estates; to allow Longleat itself to survive, he opened the house to public visitors. Russell Page redesigned the gardens around the house to allow for tourists. The safari park opened in 1966. Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath (1932–2020) was an artist and mural painter with a penchant for mazes and labyrinths: he created the hedge maze, the love labyrinth, the sun maze, the lunar labyrinth and King Arthur's maze on the property. Ceawlin Thynn, 8th Marquess of Bath (born 1974) inherited in 2020.

A Titian masterpiece 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt' - worth more than £5m - was stolen from the drawing room in January 1995. It was found in a plastic shopping bag in London in 2002.[3] Longleat staged the Red Bull Air Race in 2005. 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.[4]

Media appearances[edit]

The house has been much used as a film location, including: Libel (1959); several episodes of the BBC science-fiction television series Doctor Who, and for 30 years a Doctor Who Exhibition was hosted on the grounds,[5] with an event celebrating the series's 20th anniversary being held at the house at Easter 1983; the Indian Hindi film Mohabbatein (2000);[6][7] and the BBC show How to Improve Your Memory (2006).[8]


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; 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; and the banqueting suite on the top floor: the furniture and interiors designed by Claire Rendall,[9] the dining table commissioned from John Makepeace[10] and the chandelier from Jocelyn Burton.[11]

Historic listing designations[edit]

The house was designated as a Grade I listed building in 1968.[12] The formal gardens, pleasure grounds and parkland were listed Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in 1987.[13] Other Grade I listed buildings on the Longleat Estate include: the stables,[14] the orangery,[15] and the boathouse and bridge over the lake.[16]


Visitor attractions[edit]

Longleat maze

Longleat Safari Park opened in 1966 as the first drive-through safari park outside Africa,[17][18] and is home to over 500 animals, including Rothschild's giraffes, Grant's zebras, Rhesus monkeys, rhinos, African lions, Amur tigers and grey wolves.[19][20] Cheetahs, koalas and spotted hyenas are among the most recent additions to the safari park. Four lion cubs were born in September 2011, making a total of 10 cubs born that year, and Disney named two of them Simba and Nala as part of a co-promotion agreement for the upcoming Lion King 3D film.[21]

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.[22][23] The house, park and attractions are open from mid-February to the start of November each year.[24] 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.[25][26] Longleat leases 400 acres of land to Center Parcs for the operation of the Longleat Forest holiday village.[27]

The Longleat hedge maze is considered the world's longest, with 1.69 miles of pathway. The layout was by maze designer Greg Bright.[28] Over 16,000 English yews form the walls surrounding a central tower, and there are six raised footbridges.[29]

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.


  1. ^ The family name was Thynn or Thynne in the 16th century, later consistently Thynne, until the 7th Marquess reverted to the spelling Thynn in the 1980s


  1. ^ "Spend a day at Longleat". BBC. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  2. ^ Hartley 2013, p. ?.
  3. ^ "Stolen £5m Titian found in carrier bag after seven-year hunt". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2023.
  4. ^ Say ‘Allo’ to new Longleat feature, Wiltshire Times, 16 December 2005. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  5. ^ "Dr Who Exhibition, Longleat". The Doctor Who Exhibitions Archive. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  6. ^ "5 Times Bollywood Tried Hard To Make Us Believe These Locations Were In India". iDiva. 15 October 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  7. ^ "Mohabbatein Movie Shooting Locations". Filmapia. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  8. ^ How to Improve Your Memory, shown 9 August 2006, BBC One. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  9. ^ "Longleat House Interiors". Claire Rendall. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  10. ^ Mann, Jean (13 August 1981). "Craftsman makes antiques of the future". New York Times. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  11. ^ "Longleat Lion Chandelier". Jocelyn Burton. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  12. ^ Historic England. "Longleat House (Grade I) (1364361)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  13. ^ Historic England. "Longleat: Park and gardens (Grade I) (1000439)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  14. ^ Historic England. "Stables at Longleat House (Grade I) (1200342)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  15. ^ Historic England. "Orangery with Walled Garden to Rear at Longleat House (Grade I) (1036392)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  16. ^ Historic England. "Boathouse and Covered Bridge at Longleat House (Grade I) (1200450)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  17. ^ "The lions and loins of Longleat". The Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  18. ^ New Scientist, 2 December 1982, p. 554, at Google Books. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  19. ^ "Longleat Safari Park, Wiltshire". Tourist Information UK. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  20. ^ Picture The UK
  21. ^ "Longleat lion cubs named". Heart.co.uk. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  22. ^ Stately-Homes.com
  23. ^ UKTV
  24. ^ "Opening Dates and Times - Longleat Safari & Adventure Park". Archived from the original on 19 February 2011.
  25. ^ Visit Bath
  26. ^ "Environment: News & features". The Daily Telegraph. 24 June 2018. Archived from the original on 26 April 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2018.
  27. ^ Warminster People
  28. ^ Eliot, Henry (2019). Follow This Thread: A Maze Book to Get Lost In. Crown. ISBN 978-1984824448.
  29. ^ "Longleat Hedge Maze". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  30. ^ Burke, Sir Bernard, (1938 ed) Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage. Shaw, London. p. 243
  31. ^ a b c Woodfall, H. (1768). The Peerage of England; Containing a Genealogical and Historical Account of All the Peers of that Kingdom Etc. Fourth Edition, Carefully Corrected, and Continued to the Present Time, Volume 6. p. 258.
  32. ^ a b Lee, Sidney; Edwards, A. S. G. (revised) (2004). "Thynne, William (d. 1546)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27426. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  33. ^ Girouard, Mark, Thynne, Sir John (1515–1580), estate manager and builder of Longleat in Oxford Dictionary of Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  34. ^ Booth, Muriel. "Thynne, John (?1550–1604), of Longleat, Wilt". History of Parliament. The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  35. ^ Lancaster, Henry; Thrush, Andrew. "Thynne, Charles (c.1568–1652), of Cheddar, So". History of Parliament. The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  36. ^ Pugh, R. B.; Crittall, Elizabeth, eds. (1957). "Parliamentary history: 1529–1629". A History of the County of Wiltshire. Vol. 5. London: Victoria County History – via British History Online.
  37. ^ Ferris, John P. "Thynne, Sir James (c.1605-70), of Longbridge Deverill, Wilt". History of Parliament. The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  38. ^ Helms, M. W.; Ferris, John P. "Thynne, Sir Thomas (c.1610–c.69), of Richmond, Sur". History of Parliament. The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  39. ^ Marshall, Alan (2008) [2004]. "Thynne, Thomas [nicknamed Tom of Ten Thousand] (1647/8–1682)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/27423. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  40. ^ Heath-Caldwell, J. J. "Thomas Thynne, 1st Marquess of Bath, 3rd Viscount Weymouth". JJ Heath-Caldwell. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  41. ^ Hayton, D. W. "Thynne, Hon. Henry (1675-1708)". The History of Parliament. The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  42. ^ Dunaway, Stewart (2013). Lord John Carteret, Earl Granville: His Life History and the Granville Grants. Lulu. p. 33. ISBN 9781300878070.
  43. ^ "Bath, Thomas Thynne". Encyclopedia Britannica 1911. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  44. ^ Thorne, Roland. "Carteret [formerly Thynne], Henry Frederick". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  45. ^ "Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath (1765–1837)". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  46. ^ Escott, Margaret. "Thynne, Lord Henry Frederick (1797-1837), of 6 Grovesnor Square, Md". History of Parliament. The History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  47. ^ "John Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath (1831-1896), Diplomat and landowner". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 2 January 2016.


External links[edit]

Media related to Longleat at Wikimedia Commons