Exhibitions at Dyrham Park

Visitors in face coverings looking at room three of Dyrham Park's latest exhibition

Dyrham Park's latest exhibition focuses on the fast-changing world of the late 17th century when the house and grounds as we know them were created.

‘The world of William Blathwayt and the birth of modern Britain’ sets the scene in the 1690s when leading civil servant Blathwayt set about rebuilding Dyrham Park.

It introduces the transforming local, national and global climate of the period and links historic events and contemporary figures that shaped Blathwayt’s world, job and influenced the place he called home. 

New space

The new exhibition is housed in rooms never before open to the public which are accessed just to the side of the steps up to the house's East Front (garden-side) entrance.   

The exhibition is spread across three rooms – two featuring short videos and the third an interactive display of objects and collection items, bringing to life the late 1600s.  

The first sets the scene in the late 17th century, highlighting well-known names and events through engaging visuals, narrative and sound effects. It introduces key historic events and themes including the Great Fire of London, the Glorious Revolution, the setting up of the Bank of England, as well as the growth in global trade, colonialism and slavery. 

The second focuses on key moments in Blathwayt’s life when he found himself present at signifcant historic events. This is told in the form of three theatre acts on a virtual stage.  

The third room has specially-made items on revolving stands, four reflecting Blathwayt’s homelife and four representing his career. His colonial and military offices brought many opportunities for procuring desirable materials, objects and plants from around the world and significant collection items on display in a cabinet include pistols and Chinese teapots. Copies of paintings and maps reflect the global reach of Blathwayt's collection. 

As you exit the exhibition along the corridor, there’s a gallery of photographs of details from items and paintings from Blathwayt’s collection, to get a taste of the main house.   

Dyrham Park Rework'd

The exhibition is part of a site-wide project to restore, revitalise and reimagine Dyrham Park. The project, called Dyrham Park Rework’d, has already seen the completion of works on the house’s two main staircases as well as work on the basement which now houses the second-hand bookshop as well as the Great Kitchen and the dairy.  

Major conservation and decorative work is now under way in the main house which is closed until early April. This work was recently boosted by a grant from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund from Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).  

While the house is closed, the new exhibition gives the opportunity to focus on the events and history of the period when it was first created.  

'Consequential time'

Exhibition Curator Rupert Goulding said: “It’s wonderful to see this exhibition, created remotely through online meetings in the depths of lockdown, come to life in a space never before open to the public. 

‘It highlights a consequential time in British history – the 1690s – when changes were afoot nationally and internationally and when William Blathwayt was at the peak of his career as the leading colonial and military administrator of his age, and then as an MP. Influences from his global career are hugely evident in both the way he built and decorated his home. The exhibition is an introduction to this fascinating period of social, political and economic transformation – a pivotal time for Blathwayt to be at the forefront of government as a new Britain emerged and a new house ar Dyrham was constructed.’ 

Experience & Partnerships Curator Georgiana Hockin, said: ‘Many people feel there’s a bit of a black hole in their historic knowledge post Tudor and pre Georgian but this exhibition really helps to fill in the gaps and actually makes you realise you probably know more than you think about events and people like Samuel Pepys, Nell Gwyn, Louis XIV, Sir Isaac Newton, the Great Fire of London and the Glorious Revolution.’   

The exhibition is open daily from 10.30am until 3pm and is manned by volunteers. It has level access and British Sign Language is available to accompany the films.

Delft tile at Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire

Previous exhibition - Colonial Dyrham 

The exhibition in the main house explored Dyrham's connections with colonialism by looking at global connections, showcasing some contemporary responses to these histories, through words, music, images and poetry, and creating space for visitors to share their reflections. It ran for a year from late 2020 and came as part of a National Trust partnership project with the University of Leicester called ‘Colonial Countryside’ which helped participants learn about the colonial connections of properties such as Dyrham Park.

The King and the Courtier Dyrhams Garden Revealed exhibition at Dyrham Park

Previous exhibition - The King and the Courtier

An exhibition on the garden went on show in 2016 in the house. ‘The King & The Courtier: Dyrham’s Garden Revealed’ looked at how and why the garden was created by William Blathwayt, who served in the government of King William III. It marked the start of a project to transform what once was Dyrham Park's front garden, informed by a 17th-century engraving.

Building Dyrham exhibition at Dyrham Park

Previous exhibition - Building Dyrham

In 2015 an exhibition was held which looked at construction of Dyrham Park culminating in the roof project which saw the roof rebuilt. It set out how the house was originally built and ongoing conservation work; from the traditional techniques used in the 17th century to those used today by lead workers, stone workers and carpenters who worked on the replacement roof.

William I Blathwayt (?1649-1717), attributed to Michael Dahl

Previous exhibition - A World Away

In 2012 an exhibition looked at the life and career of William Blathwayt in partnership with the Arts Council Collection. Contemporary works by artists including Sonia Boyce, Cornelia Parker, Yinka Shonibare and Mark Wallinger offered new perspectives on Dyrham’s history, covering themes of home and family as well as Blathwayt’s colonial and military career.