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The collection at Tyntesfield

The Grand Hall with its impressive fireplace at Tyntesfield, Bristol
The Grand Hall with its impressive fireplace at Tyntesfield | © National Trust Images/Bob Fowler

No National Trust place has a bigger collection of objects than Tyntesfield. Here, we highlight some of the things to look out for when visiting the Gibbs family home, from the Grand Hall fireplace to an impressive hoard of books.

The Gibbs family

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 that stretched from Europe to South America. By the late 1850s, his firm had made a vast fortune from Peruvian ‘guano’, or seabird dung – a highly prized fertiliser.

It was the profits from guano that transformed Tyntesfield from an ordinary Georgian house into an extraordinary Gothic Revival masterpiece with some incredible items in its collection.

The Grand Hall fireplace

The Grand Hall was the focal point of the house during the Gibbs family's tenure, and its most impressive feature is undoubtedly the massive fireplace. Soaring to the lantern roof of English oak, it was designed to create a sense of awe and Gothic grandeur.

Elaborately carved from Mansfield sandstone, the fireplace has a tower-like structure that's encrusted with upright pinnacles. At the top is a roof canopy that reaches almost to the ceiling coving.

The fireplace literally sets out the Gibbs family’s values in stone, with statues depicting the four cardinal virtues – Fortitude, Temperance, Justice and Prudence – plus a fifth virtue, Truth.

The top of a Gothic throne at Tyntesfield, showing intricate swirly detailing
The 'Throne of Charlemagne' at Tyntesfield | © National Trust Images/Trevor Ray Hart

The ‘Throne of Charlemagne’

While reading a book in Tyntesfield's Library, William Gibbs' son Antony spotted an illustration of an ornamental chair designed by the celebrated French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, who'd taken his inspiration from the throne of Charlemagne, King of the Franks. Antony decided there and then that he would attempt to make the design a reality.

Though he was a talented ornamental turner himself, in 1877 he entrusted the work to Barkentin and Krall, who'd made many of the fittings for the Tyntesfield Chapel, completed in 1875.

A fusion of talent

The resulting chair is a stunning fusion of European talent, sporting an arched back that's been elaborately carved with plumes, hounds, an eagle roundel and foliage.

You can find this stunning bronze chair on display on the gallery landing.

A volunteer looks at a book in the library at Tyntestfield with bookshelves stacked with gold bound books in the background.
A volunteer inspects books in the Library at Tyntesfield | © National Trust Images/Anna Kilcooley

Thousands of books

When entering the house at Tyntesfield, the first room that you encounter is the Library. This is no accident of architecture, its prominence reflects its importance to the Gibbs clan. The Library wasn't a stuffy status symbol where books languished, gathering dust. Instead, it was a well-loved repository of useful knowledge, self-improvement and amusement for a bookish family.

However, the 3,000 volumes found in the Library make up just a fraction of Tyntesfield's book collection. In total, there are around 10,000 in the house – one of the largest book collections in the National Trust.

Heritage tools

The Home Farm area of Tyntesfield is where you'll find the estate's original blacksmith’s and carpenter’s workshops, along with many heritage tools. Part of this area is now used by the Somerset Bodgers, a local group whose ways of working are inspired by Victorian craftsmanship.

Please drop by to see their work in progress and maybe even purchase a newly crafted item for your own collection.

Japanese Imari plates on the wall of the Library at Tyntesfield

Tyntesfield's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Tyntesfield on the National Trust Collections website.

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