William Blathwayt - his life and family
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Who were the Blathwayts? Where did their wealth come from? Was there really an elaborate water garden, as depicted in the famous engraving by Kip? Below reveals what we know about William Blathwayt, who was largely responsible for creating Dyrham Park as we know it.
Who was William Blathwayt?
William Blathwayt was a civil servant who worked for Charles II, James II, William and Mary and then Queen Anne. As was common, he held a plurality of posts - all of which he tackled efficiently and with hard work.
His combined salary was considerable and his wealth was supplemented by 'fees' for services rendered as part of his work. This was particularly so in his role as Surveyor & Auditor General of Plantation Revenues.
Governors of the new colonies in the Caribbean and Eastern America willingly provided money and payment-in-kind to Mr Blathwayt so that their business with London might be expedited. The result was wealth and building materials for the mansion he was erecting at Dyrham Park.
What connects the Blathwayt family to Dyrham?
William married wisely. In 1686, at the age of 37, he married 36-year-old Mary Wynter, heiress to the Dyrham estate. Sadly, Mary died after only five years of marriage. William was left with three surviving children: William, John and Anne.
The grand house we see today was built after Mary’s death but contains Mrs Blathwayt’s bedroom where all her belongings were kept by her grieving husband.
His elder son William grew up to inherit Dyrham Park. John was bought a commission in the Guards and Anne married into a local family but tragically died in childbirth in the first year of her marriage.
Why did Blathwayt build on such a grand scale?
Although William Blathwayt worked for so many monarchs he was never ennobled. After inheriting the estate in 1688, he later built the mansion and constructed a garden to express his status and influence. Both mansion and garden were highly fashionable. The mansion was filled with beautiful furniture, pictures and decoration.
There is both written and archaeological evidence that the great garden was exactly as shown in the contemporary engraving by Johannes Kip (a copy of which hangs in the Orangery).
What does the inscription His utere mecum mean?
This Latin phrase was (and still is) the Blathwayt family motto. You'll see it carved above the west door of the mansion as you enter.
It's translated by the family as 'share all this with me', an invitation fitting for visitors today: share William’s delight in the mansion, the pleasure of strolling round the garden and the experience of walking in his magnificent deer park.
Our volunteers here will be happy to talk to you about William Blathwayt and his lasting legacy when you visit Dyrham Park.