Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Visit to Tyntesfield

This is a very long post, extremely picture-rich. I have been sorting and editing my photos for most of this week. I mentioned in my last WOYWW post that we had been, the day before, Tuesday 10th July, to Tyntesfield just south of Bristol. This huge Victorian estate is a relatively recent acquisition by the National Trust and when it first came to light my hubby and I were very enthusiastic, because Victorian Gothic Revival is one of our favourite styles, and this place has it in spades.

The original house was bought by the Gibbs family in the mid-1800s and extended and remodelled in the neo-Gothic style. Gibbs had made his fortune through the import of guano, so basically Tyntesfield was built on poo! It remained in the family until 2001 when the final family member died, and a year later, the National Trust bought it.

The last of the Gibbs family lived alone in this vast house, occupying only a very few rooms, and the rest of the house was as if preserved in aspic; the National Trust is now able to restore it to its original glory, and this restoration will continue for years to come. Recently the fire authorities condemned the wiring as unsafe, so extensive rewiring is currently in process, and along with the cataloguing of all the contents and their repair and cleaning, work is ongoing as a constant stream of visitors tramps through the house. It is very interesting to see the progress being made, and quite rapidly too – my hubby was there only a month or two ago and he said there was quite a lot of change in that time.

It takes us about a couple of hours to get there so it’s a major day out. The estate is enormous and encompasses a working farm, “Home Farm,” whose buildings now serve as restaurant and shop. There are several cottages on the estate which are now available as holiday lets. Because the grounds are so extensive, they run a mini-bus for the less able, between Home Farm where you arrive and check in, up to the house via the sawmill, and down to the kitchen gardens.

Arriving at Home Farm.

Approaching the house.

The end of the house with the chapel.

The house is full of fascinating architectural detail, with the Victorian love of embellishment wherever possible. I love the curved glass in the windows of this turret.

Gargoyles abound on the outside of the house.

We spent ages looking at the outside until we had to tear ourselves away to enter the house!

Everywhere is wonderful wood, elaborately carved, carved stone, beautiful floors and doors; everywhere you looked there was something beautiful to look at.

I’ve had to be really selective over which photos to include in this blog post. I took far too many to include them all! After some ruthless pruning, I’m still hard-pressed to reduce the numbers. I’ve selected mostly pictures of the decorative elements that pleased me the most.

The staircase is amazing. Imagine being able to afford to have a stair carpet woven especially for your unique staircase.

Having engaged in trade with Spain, the owner commissioned the staircase inspired by Spanish design in metalwork.

There were several other staircases as well – small wooden ones for the use of the servants, tucked away in this labyrinth of a house.

Talking of the servants, this is the number of bells they were required to answer.

The house was full of grand doorways, each one different.

Ceilings. Vaulted, wooden, stone, plaster… All stunning, and many with elaborate chandeliers.

This particular room was one being used for storage and for sorting and cataloguing the inventory of literally thousands of artefacts, from tiny ornaments to large pieces of furniture. The work is going to take years to complete.

Beautiful inlaid wood floors and tiled floors.

This is the floor in the chapel.

Fireplaces – each one giving real presence to the room.

This fireplace was made of alabaster.

It had beautiful tiles on the hearth and as a fireback. Notice the snowdrop design.

Some beautiful rooms.

The above room contained this stunning bureau, which leads us into our next theme – beautiful items of furniture, some built in. Here are some further shots of the bureau in more detail.

I couldn’t take any photos of the whole of this large piece of beautifully inlaid furniture because the reflections were so troublesome. In fact, it was quite hard photographing quite a bit in the house, because the blinds were down in order to protect the artefacts from the light.

Much of the furniture is still stored in various rooms; we saw large pieces shrouded in dust sheets. Many of the paintings are stored away, too.

Some interesting non-furniture objects scattered around the house.

Here’s a picture for Elizabeth who collects rocking horses!

A wood turning lathe and a large collection of tools.

Beautiful carvings were everywhere. In this room, there was a frieze of carved fruits and flowers in deep relief above some relatively plain panels. We were told that all the fruits and flowers depicted actually existed on the estate. The beauty and accuracy were amazing.

Although the kitchens were officially closed, a very kind steward led us through for a private viewing.

Although some of the original kitchen still exists, many of the appliances and gadgets dated from teh 1050s and later, used by the final residents of the house. When the National Trust took it over, everything was exactly as it had been left.

One of many specialised pantries for the storage and preparation of specific foods, in this case, fish. At present this room is full of inventory waiting to be catalogued.

The kitchen and all its associated pantries and storage rooms were lovely and cool, being set on the north side of the house, built almost into the hill that rises above the back of the house.

The chapel was beautiful. The family were apparently quite High Church and services took place daily in this beautiful chapel, to which everyone was obliged to come, family, their visitors, and servants alike.

In the chapel, we got into conversation with the lady stewarding in there, and she happened to mention she’d been to an Anglican convent school. I asked which one, and it turned out to be the same school I attended up to age 11! She was older than me but we shared a lot of common memories. There were no nuns by the time I went there.

Upstairs, the bedrooms were mostly not finished, and some were full of more inventory being catalogued. Most of the bedrooms were fairly small and much more intimate than the grand downstairs rooms, and the wallpaper and furnishings were from a later period. I didn’t take so many pictures up there.

Back to Home Farm again for lunch. The restaurant, which includes a coffee lounge and a children’s play area, along with the shop, is located in the converted cattle barn. The original iron partitions and feeding troughs are still there, and it looks as if the only treatment they have received is to be cleaned with a wire brush and then waxed, which leaves the rust stabilised, and does not remove that wonderful patina. The rest of the interior of the building was painted plain white, which showed everything off to perfection.

Looking around the shop, I was interested to see a display of Bristol glass, with its distinctive intense blue colouring. I couldn’t afford to buy any (I had my eye on that stemmed dish second from the right on the bottom shelf) so a photos will have to suffice!

Likewise this absolutely stunning platter made from a slice cut through a monkey puzzle tree. You can see where the branches grew out from the trunk. This piece of wood was wonderfully tactile – silky smooth to the touch after much polishing. The photo doesn’t do it justice – it fairly glowed and the finish on the wood gave it a dull sheen.

Various lodge houses and estate cottages.

After lunch we made our way down to the kitchen garden. It was a pleasant walk through the trees, on a different route from that taken by the minibus.

En route to the kitchen garden, we found the rose garden.

Walking along below the house, we got some lovely views of it.

I took this one with the zoom lens, and I love the fine metalwork tracery on the pinnacle atop this roof. When in doubt, embellish!

We passed through the garden, some bits of which were more formal than others. This circular bed is recently planted (my hubby said it wasn’t there last time he was here) and it all looks newly planted.

The house has a ha-ha, which is a device for keeping animals (e.g. cattle or deer) separate from the garden without a visible fence. It is a wall built into the slope of the land which prevents the animals from straying, and gives uninterrupted views of the herd from the house.

Reaching the kitchen garden, we were in for a treat. Unfortunately it is not as fully planted as they would like – it’s a question of getting the right volunteers.

Stepping into the kitchen garden was like stepping into another world. Here was neo-Classicism in place of high Victorian Gothic revival.

There were plenty of greenhouses. In this picture if you look closely, you can see the ingenious winding mechanism for opening and closing the windows.

A huge potting shed and store for garden tools – you can imagine what this garden was like in its heyday, with a head gardener in charge of an army of under-gardeners.

The orangery.

Down by the kitchen garden, some of the farm buildings had been converted into a small tea room, which was such a good idea, as by this time we were far from Home Farm and in dire need of tea and cake before returning home!

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