History

Glimpses of Dyrham through the ages

This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.

William Blathwayt, creator of Dyrham Park

A self-made man

 

William Blathwayt (1649-1717) was responsible for transforming Dyrham Park into one of the wonders of the age. Hard-working civil servant, linguist, traveller, lover of art, architecture and books, MP for Bath, family man and careful spender, his administrative talents brought him many lucrative offices of state (notably for war and the colonies) under successive monarchs.

Son of a hard-up gentleman commoner

 © National Trust/Elaine Hodgson

Blathwayt's early life was marred by tragedy. His father was a London lawyer who died destitute when his only son was five years old. Fortunately, William's widowed mother Anne was bailed out by her wealthy brother, Thomas Povey, and went on to remarry Thomas Vivian. Her new husband, a friend of Povey's, proved a willing step-father to William and his three sisters.

Thomas Povey, 'coxcomb and fool'

 © National Trust

Despite this unflattering assessment by Samuel Pepys, Thomas Povey was an important role model for the young Blathwayt, opening many doors for his eager nephew. Povey was a rich administrator and art collector who lived in great style after an advantageous marriage. In 1693, William bought many pictures from him that would form the core of the renowned collection at Dyrham.

A view of the gardens at Dyrham Park in 1710, by Johannes Kip © National Trust

A view of the gardens at Dyrham Park in 1710, by Johannes Kip

'...beautiful gardens of a great extent...'

William Blathwayt's legendary gardens at Dyrham, shown here in an engraving from 1712, have now mostly disappeared. To the east of the mansion, only the statue of Neptune remains as a clue to the splendour of an elaborate Dutch-style water garden, replaced in the early 1800s by the landscaped parkland you see today.

In recent years, a long-term project to recreate some of the original features of the West Garden has begun to give a sense of how the house was once the focal point of a complex series of formal partitions, paths and vistas.

The statue of Mercury above the West Front is over 300 years old © National Trust

The statue of Mercury above the West Front is over 300 years old

Dyrham today - conservation and restoration

After extensive repairs, Dyrham was handed to the National Trust in 1961 to be cared for and opened to the public. The acquisition was completed in 1976 when the historic 272-acre deer park was purchased with a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Backed by our four million members, we aim to look after Dyrham Park, its grounds and unique contents forever, for everyone. In addition, our staff and volunteers continually strive to improve visitor facilities, access and interpretation, bringing the whole property and its rich history to life for visitors of all ages.

Share