Exhibitions at Dyrham Park

Delft tile at Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire

The current exhibition on display in Dyrham Park's house explores Dyrham's connections with colonialism.

'Colonial Dyrham' looks at global connections, showcases some contemporary responses to these histories, through words, music, images and poetry, and creates space for visitors to share their reflections.

Please check the website for house opening times and please note, due to number limits, entry to the site will unfortunately not guarantee entry to the house.

Colonial Countryside 

Since 2017, the National Trust has partnered the University of Leicester in the ‘Colonial Countryside’ project to help participants learn about the colonial connections of properties such as Dyrham Park and to generate thought and reflection.

Work to create a new exhibition space to explore themes relevant to the world of house builder William Blathwayt, a leading government administrator of the late 17th century, was paused in 2020. However, funding through the Colonial Countryside project enabled us to create this temporary exhibition to share the many colonial connections over hundreds of years at Dyrham Park in some of the rooms in the main house.

The exhibition

The main display is being housed in a no-touch one-way route.

The first room introduces ‘Dyrham Park’s Colonial Connections’ setting out the history, context and stories of significant figures in Dyrham’s colonial past. This includes the Wynter family and their links to Sir Francis Drake and Sir John Hawkins, the colonial careers of William Blathwayt and his uncle Thomas Povey and Mary Sarah Oates who was born in Jamaica. A summary can be found here.

The theme in the second space is ‘Colonial Countryside’ with the showcasing of the video poem ‘Litany for Two Boys at Dyrham Park’ written by Trinidadian poet Andre Bagoo in response to the stands of two enslaved figures in Dyrham's collection. The poem is projected onto a screen with audio. Poems by Bristol schoolchildren who visited as part of the project are also on show. 

Lastly, links to Jamaica are explored and there's space for visitors to reflect on history. Music created by enslaved Africans in Jamaica in the 1680s is played, recreated by the Musical Passage project. There is space for responses from partners and visitors.

General Manager Tom Boden said: 'We've been researching the themes in the exhibition for many years and it's great to see this come together now, in anticipation of the completion of our project Dyrham Park Rework’d. The aim is to share Dyrham's global connections and to create space for contemplation. It'll mean different things to different people and we've tried to reflect this through a mix of modern-day responses.

'This isn't the only story to share at Dyrham, but it is fundamental to Dyrham’s history. We hope this exhibition will encourage people to think about the place in a new way, in particular through untold stories, like that of Mary Sarah Oates and through the music of enslaved African people as written down in 17th-century Jamaica. The strength of this music speaks to the power of human resistance to unimaginable suffering, and it has huge significance as the musical traditions brought by Africans to the Americas shaped so many of our modern musical genres including blues, gospel, jazz and soul.'

The exhibiton was funded by the Colonial Countryside project through the University of Leicester supported by the Arts Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Reniassance One, Writing East Midlands and Peepal Tree Press.

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.