Monday, 23 September 2013

Where there’s muck ... there’s a very large house! Tyntesfield.

I’ve been wanting to visit Tyntesfield in north Somerset ever since I heard about its purchase for the nation by the National Trust and others ...

The house was created by William Gibbs, the richest commoner in England in the mid-1800s, as a statement of prosperity and confidence, fervent faith and family fortunes.
The stables in use now!
In this post I'm using mostly my photos ... and they only show the parts that interested me, that I had time to and was allowed to take photos ... so the Chapel, the main parts of the house will need to follow ... 

He was in muck – the guano type found in Peru – which revolutionised Victorian agriculture and horticulture, providing rich fertiliser for the land at a time when all members of English society were interested in their gardens ...

The Cow Barn Kitchen below ... the
Home Farm and entrance to the Park,
to get to the house are from this level

... from the landed gentry to the florist clubs (early 1800s), established by the men in the towns ... before women really got a look in ... see my earliest post.

The Gibbses’ fortunes rose ... then declined with the 1929 Wall Street Crash and subsequent Great Depression ... and continued that gradual deterioration – along came the 2nd World War – and though the family, always philanthropic, tried to restore the lands, they were unable to build their estate back up.
Lathe and plaster needing repair

The last Gibbs, Richard (1928-2001), took over the management of the house and estate, focusing on the kitchen garden and surrounding land.  He lived alone, had never married, and had none of the household staff necessary for such an enormous property.

? 1920s wall paper in servants'
quarters showing damp

The use of the house, by necessity, gradually shrank into fewer and fewer rooms ... and by the time he died, unexpectedly, the main reception rooms were mostly shuttered and closed up, but kept well ordered.

The butler's boots - he had 'dressing
rooms' etc in various places around
the house, as he often had to change
Brief details surrounding the National Trust purchase can be found set out in Wikipedia ... but thank goodness it has been saved for us to be able to visit, and as a historical record of Victorian life, and wasn’t bought by some celebrity for private use.

The house was opened within 10 weeks of purchase by the NT in 2002 – pretty amazing to put it mildly – and now 11 years later it is still undergoing preservation, cataloguing, etc etc ...
One of the butler's rooms
downstairs, away from the
kitchen, but from which was used
as a pantry (when necessary)
and where the silver safe, china
etc were safely stored 

We left things rather late, after a lazyish morning and dog walks, with our visit and went the long way round – the motorway on a Friday is not always the best way to travel, and then one of the side roads we intended to take was closed – so that entailed another deviation.

Having parked up ... little did we know how far the actual house was – but first the important elements of existence ...

The butler's telephone 'book' -
with a note on conservation of
paper by the NT
... a comfort break ... and sustenance ... ... via the stables, and cow-barn ... as the Home Farm is used for the Visitor Centre ... food, muck (sorry!), shops and garden centre ....

Once sustained, with by now the rain falling in gentle stair-rods ... we set out – over what is amazing parkland ... with not a huge amount of time ... (there is a courtesy bus – but we’re not that sort, yet)...

There was stained glass every-
where .. this was in a corridor
When we’d bought the tickets we were offered a separate tour in the servants’ quarters of an interesting art project ... incorporating bird-song ... but that will need some explanation – while the room photos I can show.

On deciding to take the servants route ... we only had time to ‘skip’ through the parts of the house that were open – posts to follow at some stage – well as you can see from the photos in Wiki it is a huge place.

The fireplace in the Billiard
Room (The Gentlemen's
Suite) - a heated billiard table
connected to the hot water
system ... an adjacent lathe
room and Gentlemen's toilet
with the latest ceramics!
We definitely want to go back ... preferably on a sunny day ... and take our time ... the Gibbses were great sustainers – starting with William, who was a committed Christian, and spent his fortune funding churches, on his charitable work, and on the family home.

Each of the next three generations left their mark on Tyntesfield, keeping the estate running as a unit.  Each made changes to the house and estate, but these were achieved with sensitivity, adding to and not undoing the work of their predecessors.

An electric scoreboard alsoconnected
to the billiard table (i.e. automated)
It is this that makes Tyntesfield so fascinating, the house, Chapel, servants’ quarters and most of their contents, as well as the exterior buildings and their collections have survived largely intact ...

... we saw this as we walked round ... in the garden and particularly in the house – as we were happy to be inside and out of the incessant rain.

The Chapel is the piece de resistance
it is full of glass that glows ... it too
has an interesting history (from Wiki)

Some rooms have been conserved and now reflect life as it was ... while others still need that work to be done – we saw one bedroom, where ‘things’ were piled high waiting for conservation ... prams, tables, chairs ... it is obviously a mammoth task ... again see Wiki for further info.

So this posting gives a glimpse, via the few photos I took together with some from Wiki, of the wonders of Victorian and Edwardian fortunes, through the subsequent 20th century decline to the work that we are able to do in the 21st century: giving Tyntersfield back its glory ...

The stiarcase gallery fromWiki
We will definitely go back ... to see the reversal of fortune that the National Trust, the public and volunteers are brining to Tyntersfield ... showcasing life though the last 160 years ...

As a note ... Christies, the auction house, had been called in by Richard Gibbses’ Trust and the family, to prepare the house for auction ... so the exact placement of some of the contents is now out of context – but essentially many of the items will be returned, as best possible, to their original placement.

Wikipedia page on Tyntesfield

My earlier post on a brief history of florist clubs to those we know today – e.g. Chelsea Flower Show

As a grammatical note ... the use of "Gibbses'" I took from the National Trust's guide book

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Murees Dupè said...

It is great that such a legacy still lives on and that you can get to see the house. Wonderful pictures.

Manzanita said...

WOW All that money from guano. I guess there is money in almost everything if one has vision. It probably was uncommon for a commoner to live in such affluence.

Lynn said...

Oh my - what a huge place! And its background is so interesting. Love that chapel.

Chatty Crone said...

We have something very similar called the Biltmore House. A mansion that people can only dream of. Don't you wonder what it would be like to live in it back then? sandie

Optimistic Existentialist said...

This place looks amazing! Wow. Have a happy Monday!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad they were able to save it and open the estate to the public. Looks like the place has a lot of personality. Especially the bathrooms!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post Hilary, Having being brought up in Bristol I well remember going there, brought back fond memories.....Thanks.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Murees - we're lucky with our history and preserved buildings .. I'll enjoy my next visit to see what they've achieved.

@ Manzanita - yup.. where there's muck there's money! Guano was incredibly lucrative and popular and made a world of difference to horticulture ... and the Gibbs family were unusual at that stage ..

@ Lynn - it is enormous and that is only part of the frontage .. there are other buildings .. once restored it will be incredible ..

@ Sandie - yes I've heard of Biltmore handed on by the Vanderbilts ... and I'd like to visit one day ...

@ Keith - the little we saw, was quite incredible .. beautiful day here - so Monday is happy!

@ Alex - yes, I was glad they'd saved it for the nation .. and now we can learn so much from it.

They are doing the place up differently from some other historic houses .. uses the latest methods, or utilising and adapting the quarters as appropriate (cow barn into coffee/lunch place for visitors) ...

@ Yvonne - you were very privileged if you were able to visit when you lived in Bristol - as it's only this century been open to the public ... lucky you is all I can say - perhaps you can pass some of the memories on? That'd be really interesting ...

Cheers to you all .. the sun has come out, the sea was turquoise and it's glorious!! Hilary

H.R. Sinclair said...

I totally misread "the richest commoner" as the "the richest coroner"!

Anyway-awesome place. I think it would be easy to get lost in there though.

D.G. Hudson said...

Fantastic information, Hilary. I want to see the followup posts, too.

Isn't it great when heritage building are kept for historical purposes? I love touring these types of places and envy you your access to so much history. Thank you for sharing your exploits!

Suzanne Furness said...

This sounds like a mammoth task to finish. Pleased the NT have taken it under their wing and are presering/restoring the property to its former glory. Think you will definitely need to visit again.

Stephen Tremp said...

Its great to see these classic historic homes full of rich heritage restored and open to the public. Sounds like a fun to explore for a day.

We just don't have places like this where I live. Not many buildings over a hundred years old.

Janie Junebug said...

Another place I want to see. Why a heated billiards table?


Old Kitty said...

Oooh I do like that wallpaper - then it was for servants, now it's be totally des res!!

How does one even pronounce Tyntesfield?

What an amazing grand house! Can't imagine the last Mr Gibbs all alone in that huge huge place!! Glad the architecture and some of the contents are going to be preserved!

Take care

Julia Hones said...

I enjoyed the pictures of Tyntesfield and the history attached to it.
This past weekend I visited a home from the 1800s and took lots of pictures. I will probably write a post about it in the future...

MorningAJ said...

Looks fascinating. Have you ever been to Calke Abbey? I think you'd like it. It was gradually locked up by its owners as they ran out of money and has been conserved in the state they left it in. It's an amazing place to visit.

Bish Denham said...

How wonderful that it will be preserved and the people can walk through it. The wallpaper and stained glass... beautiful. The chapel... stunning.

Notes Along the Way with Mary Montague Sikes said...

Interesting! You have such huge and wonderful places in England. It makes me tired thinking about touring Tyntesfield! Thanks for sharing!

Mary Montague Sikes

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Holly - I do that .. misread words and then realise the sentence said something completely different - "richest coroner" though .. is a great misread - love it.

It would be very easy to get lost and outside too ..

@ DG - many thanks I'll get to the follow up posts sometime!

We are exceedingly lucky living here - where so much over the centuries has been recorded, is visible, and has been interpreted for us non experts in the field.

@ Suzanne - the NT have done a huge amount .. and are leaders in conservation .. so they're always ready to try the latest idea - I was impressed to read what was happening here .. and yes I'll be back.

@ Stephen - so pleased you enjoyed this 'brief tour' .. and wandering around there for a few days would be amazing.

Southern California is so new .. but there are a few Mission Houses etc ..

@ Janie - the surface (slate covered with beize) of a billiard table is sensitive to temperature changes - so the heating would have kept it at an ambient temperature ... and thus not allowing any warping, or slate mis-matches .. there are 12 pieces of slate in each table .. and the balls could run smoothly, without jumping ...

@ Old Kitty - I thought someone would like the wall-paper and as you say it is now "des-res" -

"Tinsfield" - apparently is how you pronounce it .. as I tripped over its name .. yet the baronetcy of Tynte - as it was known in the 1500s .. so I'm not sure - but National Trust speak is Tinsfield!!

They are doing great works with the preservation, as well as going back through the archives and finding out more .. so they can bring other parts of the building, that are no more back into existence .. eg the conservatory ..

Also making sure the architecture is faithfully repaired .. and as much as possible on the estate kept as it should be ..

@ Julia - it's always interesting to read your posts and one about an historical home in the States will be good to find out about .. look forward to your posting ..

@ Anne - I haven't been to Calke Abbey .. but did check it out and as you say it would fascinate me .. I don't get up into Derbyshire - but really need to at some stage - it's on my list!! Thanks for letting me know ..

@ Bish - there was so much to see all the wood carvings, the furniture etc .. and I could go on and on - the chapel interior was amazing and really one wants to spend a while in quietude reflecting in the beautiful space.

@ Mary - you'd have been very interested in the two art exhibitions that were on - one modern works of art in the house, while the bird-song project we saw up in the servant's quarters ..

Wonderful inspiration could be had here .. thanks everyone - lovely to have your comments - cheers Hilary

Karen Lange said...

I would love to tag along on some of your adventures! They sound (and look) wonderful. Thank you for giving me a virtual field trip today! Have a great week! :)

jabblog said...

It looks a beautiful - and huge - house, far more than can be seen in one visit. It's good to know it is being restored.

Jo said...

Mammoth restoration task but how interesting to do and how satisfying once complete. Never heard of the Gibbs family before. You are showing me the country of my birth the way I had never seen it before, thanks.

Elise Fallson said...

I've never heard of the Gibbs before but what a house and history! I wonder how it must have been for him being the richest non-noble man in England. Was he still treated differently by others... Anyway, it's a beautiful site, all thanks to guano!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

So nice to have this estate restored for visitors. I'd love to have a chance to see it. Every room is a museum! And I'll bet wandering through the gardens was a treat too. Hooray for not taking the bus! I'm sure it is much more enjoyable to be able to wander through on foot.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great photos Hilary! The National Trust does amazing things. Thanks for sharing with us.

klahanie said...

Good very early Wednesday morning, Hilary,

Although I have been privileged to have visited many a grand place in Britain, you have introduced me to a location I was not familiar with.

I shall put in a bid for the house. William Gibbs, common as muck in a good way.

Cheers and time for a nap,


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Karen - I'd love to have you join me .. lots to show you! Glad you enjoyed this virtual one though ..

@ Janice - it is an incredible place .. I bought the book for its history and the family's ..

Exactly - it definitely needs to be seen in more than one visit .. let alone the gardens and estates ..

@ Jo - well I join you ... but so many conservation societies along with the public's support and encouragement are doing such great works. It's a joy to be around England as we can access and find out about so much .. glad you're enjoying it ..

@ Elise - I don't think any of us had .. if we'd lived near Bristol I expect we might have done ..

They started life in London, but possibly with the opening of the Great Western Railway moved, with their 7 children, to be nearer other relatives ... William Gibbs was a good business man, who expanded the family's fortunes in the Bristol area before branching out into guano in the 1840s ..

Tyntesfield was bought to enlarge and expand the house and estate .. but they also made sure they employed local people ..

@ Karen - well if you ever get over here .. we can pay the house and estates a visit ...

We hadn't left ourselves time, and also it was very wet with the weather getting worse .. so our foot enjoyment will be better next time I expect ... lovely walks though ..

@ Sharon - conservation is particularly good over here, as is the research into the archives .. finding out new things about areas and people .. so much is available.

@ Gary - you make me tired every time I see a comment .. middle of the nights or early mornings = the thought of is too much!

Are you playing too much monopoly?

You're right though Gibbs was common as muck, but in a good way ..

Enjoy your nap ..

Cheers everyone - and see you all soon - Hilary

Marja said...

How lucky that it has been saved. It must have been in a bad state with one man living there. I love the green pantry in the butlers room. Very pretty and his boots as well. You've got some nice places to go to. That's what we miss here a bit, the culture and history. Thank for sharing

Theresa Milstein said...

Wow, that's some "house." I love the staircase gallery. I want to visit it too!

Sara said...

I love how the National Trust is protecting these wonderful houses/estates. You are very lucky about that.

My favorite picture was the showing the electric scoreboard connected
to the billiard table. That's so cool:~)

loverofwords said...

What a treat to see these old homes, so much to care for, but wonderful that there is some money and people who will do this. I saw the home in York that was used in the movie, "Brideshead Revisited," and was sad to see how much had to be done, silk hangings were in tatters, outside stairs crumbled, but you could still imagine its glory days.

Luanne G. Smith said...

I do love those huge estate houses. So beautiful. It's hard to imagine them once belonging to a single family.

Thanks for taking us along on all your adventures. I enjoy (vicariously) your trips to all these fascinating places. :)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Since all that wealth came from muck, does that make it "dirty money"?

Sounds like you had another terrific outing. It must be amazing to have historical places like this nearby for you to explore. (And so nice of you to take us along for the trip!)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Marja .. the roof leaked, and many areas were starting to 'decay' .. but now the rest of the house can be addressed ..

The butler's room here was downstairs, the boots were two floors up .. but poor chap had 'dressing rooms' in various places ..

It was the thing I found in South Africa - I missed the history and culture available in the UK ..

@ Theresa - well I will come with you .. I'd love to hear your thoughts ..

@ Sara - what I'm finding now .. is that it's interesting how they are conserving - and reading about the new methodologies ..

Isn't the billiard table and electric scoreboard set up quite extraordinary .. it was fun to see too!

@ Tasha - we're very lucky ... people are generous with their time as well as their cash to protect our heritage ..

I tried to look to see where the film was made in NY and the location you mentioned .. however - I can imagine if the owners had suffered in the Great Depression the house would just have been left - yet the glory days were visible, behind the mists of time ... fascinating to have seen ..

@ Luanne - it is an enormous place .. but large families and lots of entertainment, needed space for visitors and parties ... and servants ...

So pleased you enjoyed the tour around ..

@ Susan - in this instance I think the money was clean as it grew plants and vegetables and helped Britain prosper ..

So this was a clean, devoted family, church loving and community oriented with Victorian ideas ..

Glad you enjoyed it .. such a fascinating place ..

Thanks for the visit .. lovely to see you - cheers Hilary

Juliet said...

How marvellous that the house has been saved and is in good hands. I can see why you'd want to return - there is so much so see. the house gives a glimpse into a whole other way of life - love the butler's boots.

Julie Flanders said...

What a fun tour. I hope you do get to go back on a sunny day. Loved the pictures. :)

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks for sharing!
What an interesting life it must be, to feel/know you have all the money in the world to do whatever you like with your estate - build it, decorate it, furnish it, however your heart desires... And then hire staff to run it and keep it clean!
I'd like to spend a weekend at a party in a place like this :-)

Romance Reader said...

Wonderful pictures. And it's all such interesting information.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Juliet - we were only there a very short time, so a good look around and tour of the gardens is on the list, some time ...

@ Julie - it was a lovely time, but a sunny day will be even better!

@ Deniz - the family were innovators, so we've benefited from their trials and errors .. and they did look after the local community - it doesn't sound like they frittered their lives - just sadly times changed and they couldn't keep it all up ...

I'd join you for a weekend party though .. sounds loads of fun and what a lot of land to roam around in ...

@ Nas - glad you enjoyed it ..

Cheers and - happy weekend to one and all - Hilary

Annalisa Crawford said...

Such a cool place. My dad has camped and fired Victorian cannons at Tyntesfield (I'm almost positive he has, anyway!) but I've never been there myself.

Annalisa Crawford said...

PS. I just checked his website - he was there in August this year :-)

JJ said...

Every time I visit your blog, I long to return for a UK visit. Cheers!

Rhonda Albom said...

Really interesting and quite amazing that all this fortune stared with guano. Glad they could share this with the public and sorry I missed it when we were in England.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Annalisa - isn't that fun to know ... any chance you could tell us a little more? It'd be so interesting ..

I hope you get a chance to visit - it is quite extraordinary ..

@ JJ - delighted I tempt you back over here once again!

@ Rhonda - just the luck of the draw the family had been trading in Spain, which had led to other opportunities ... guano being one of them - the timing was right: development of agriculture and horticulture ...

Perhaps on another visit you can get down to explore .. ?

Cheers to you all - have good weekends .. Hilary

Gina Gao said...

This is a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading this very much.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gina - many thanks .. good to see you - Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

Sorry that you had to visit on such a rainy day. I enjoyed seeing the photos. The butler had a very extensive boot collection.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Julie .. it was just one of those things - it was fine further south, but as we neared Bristol .. the dark clouds and rain descended and stayed!

The butler had three or four rooms around the house - so he didn't need to delay changing!

Thanks - and good to see you here - Hilary

Patricia said...

What a wonderful tour - on my next trip to UK I will add some of your wonderful pre-tour guide post places to my list for sure

Thank you

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. you will be zig-zagging all over the place if you follow around with me .. I'm a very eclectic traveller ... but delighted you want to follow along! I hope you can get over again ...

Cheers for now - Hilary

Tina said...

I think I would have opted for the servant's portion of the tour as well. I read a lot of romances set in those times, and was fascinated by the "behind the scenes" goings on of serving a household. Also, when I was young and still living in Sweden, my parents would let me watch "Upstairs, Downstairs" with them. I loved that show. Until the mom and daughter died on The Titanic...and thus was born my fascination with that ill-fated journey...
Tina @ Life is Good

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Tina - it was just an opportunity to see the art exhibition as well as those quarters .. we'll go back and see the house properly - including the downstairs servants' area ...

I had gone to South Africa - so didn't see "Upstairs, Downstairs" - and hadn't realised there was a connection with the Titanic written into the script ..

This year was the centenary year of it going down and I did see a few programmes on it .. with the menus etc ... desperate times though - amazing, thankfully, some lived -

Thanks Tina .. great to have your comment - Hilary