Why Tyntesfield is special
Tyntesfield is a rare survivor: a near-complete High Victorian country estate. The house, garden, woodlands and many of the original buildings remain intact, together with the possessions amassed by one family, the Gibbs.
William Gibbs bought Tyntesfield in 1844 as a country retreat for his wife Blanche and growing family. Born in Madrid, William was an astute merchant with a wide trading network from Europe to South America. By the late 1850s William’s firm had made a vast fortune from Peruvian ‘guano’ or seabird dung, a highly prized fertiliser.
It was guano profits that transformed Tyntesfield - from an ordinary Georgian house into an extraordinary Gothic Revival masterpiece.
The Gibbs were devout High Anglicans or ‘Tractarians’. They employed the architect John Norton to translate their religious requirements into a bespoke grand design. Tyntesfield was Norton’s boldest Gothic work. Completed in 1865, it displays the highest levels of craftsmanship in local and exotic materials.
Its arches soar skywards and the wildlife from the surrounding woods, fields and garden are beautifully carved in glowing Bath stone. The quality of the interiors of the Grade I-listed house is exceptional, with stencilled walls, fireplaces and soft furnishings by the leading designers of the day.
A chapel fit for a king
The glittering chapel by Arthur Blomfield is one of the finest country house chapels in the UK. It was inspired by Sainte Chapelle, the chapel of the French kings in Paris, and was finished in 1875, just before William’s death.
Many of the estate’s historic features survive, a testament to the sensitivity of William’s descendants:
the Grade II*-listed Home Farm complex was the latest in Victorian farming technology. Unusually, it was commissioned by a female landowner, William’s widow, Blanche Gibbs
the timber-framed Gothic Stables and Chaplain’s House
the Kitchen Garden, with its array of glasshouses
the flamboyant Neo-classical Orangery
and Arts and Crafts-style back sheds, still in use today.
With the largest collection of objects in the Trust, Tyntesfield is a fascinating record of life in a country house spanning four generations. Intriguing clues into William’s Hispanic identity remain dotted around the house: his Spanish motto, dramatic Spanish paintings and shimmering incense burners from Peru.
Be sure not to miss:
the outstanding, intact Victorian country house Library
the spectacular bronze and crystal Gothic ‘throne of Charlemagne’, commissioned by William’s son Antony, himself a talented craftsman.
the Bellini The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist (Antony’s most expensive purchase)
Antony’s magnificent ornamental turning lathe in the Billiard Room.
Before you leave Home Farm, take a glimpse into the blacksmith’s and carpenter’s workshops. The shelves may lie abandoned, but they brim with the tricks and tools of their trade.