Christmas at Tyntesfield

The Georgian House was remodelled in Gothic style from 1863 by William Gibbs.

This was only our second visit to Tyntesfield which is surprising as it’s not far from where we live. The estate itself has interesting gardens, a sculpture trail, a walled vegetable garden, an Orangery, vast woodlands and two play areas for children and lots more to see and do. As soon as you turn onto the estate it is impressive as the drive is treelined and at Christmas time these beautifully trimmed trees are decorated with red bows. It looks so pretty. Today this well-preserved house and surrounding gardens sits in 540 acres.

The house has been owned by The National Trust since 2002 and together with generous donations and a huge grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund this Gothic-style house and estate was saved for the nation.

It was owned by the Gibbs family from 1843 until the death of Lord Wraxall in 2002. The family made their fortune trading in guano. (a highly effective manure from the droppings of birds, bats and seals and comes mainly from islands off the coast of Peru, Africa and California). I guess you could say …where there’s muck there’s money! For more about the Gibbs family and how they amassed their fortune, here is the link.

When we’d parked our car we decided to walk down to the Orangery. The sun made an appearance only for a short while but enough to take a picture of the house from the path.

The House rather obscured by trees and bushes but great colours.

It wasn’t possible to get into the Orangery at this time but the window displays depicting a Victorian Christmas were really interesting, so much work had gone into them.

Victorian window displays at The Orangery.

The area around The Orangery leading onto the greenhouses and the walled kitchen garden looked Christmassy too. I was persuaded to pose underneath the prettily decorated arbour.

Formal gardens and glasshouses by The Orangery.
‘Merry Christmas from Tyntesfield’.

Posing over thank goodness it was time to have a wander round the Walled Garden. Even though it was December there were so many varieties of vegetables and not a slug or snail in sight! What a banquet for rabbits!

Beautifully neat rows of winter veg.

After admiring all the vegetables growing in the garden not to mention the very neat rows, we wandered back up to the house.

The house was bought by William Gibbs in 1843. He was a religious man: a ‘High-Church’ Anglican. He associated with Augustus Pugin who like Gibbs believed that the Gothic style of architecture was an expression of Christian ideals. Together they commissioned the architect John Norton to build this extravagant house with its pinnacles, towers, oriel windows and arches. When the house was completed in 1873 a flamboyant chapel was built based again on Gothic architecture mirroring that of Saint Chapelle in Paris. It certainly didn’t reflect the style of this area. Sadly the chapel wasn’t completed until just after William died.

The imposing Gothic-style chapel adjoining the House.

Christmas at Tyntesfield is a great time to visit as the house is beautifully decorated with Christmas trees and handmade decorations. The volunteers take you back to Victorian times as they dress as members of the Gibbs family or as a maid, a footman, and other family servants. It’s great fun as the volunteers really do take on their part and are happy to answer any questions about the running of the house as it would have been at the turn of the 20th century.

A festive feel to the House.
The Christmas decorations have been made over the years by the volunteers.

One of the reasons why the house is in such good condition is that for much of the time the window blinds were drawn so that light wouldn’t fade the paintings or the fine carpets etc. Latterly the last member of the Gibbs family lived in a small part of the house so that most rooms were covered in dust sheets to protect everything. Despite the excellent condition of the interior and the historic collections there is currently a team of conservationists at Tyntesfield carefully restoring the curtains from the Organ Room. According to the Trust’s website the house contains over 60,000 objects.

Whenever we visit a stately home or historic monument owned perhaps by the National Trust or English Heritage there is always something which catches our eye. Usually it’s a painting and often both of us like the same one, although not always. At Tyntesfield we have a favourite …and it is a painting. As soon as you arrive at the top of the stairs, you notice it. On this visit we were able to ask a volunteer a little more about this beautiful woman and the child in the picture alongside.

The Hon. Victoria Florence de Burgh Long and her daughter Doreen.

The Hon. Victoria Florence de Burgh Long is quite a name! She married George Gibbs who became the 1st Baron of Wraxall in 1878. Victoria was a philanthropist and during the First World War spearheaded the Bristol Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Help Society. She was awarded the OBE in 1918 for her charitable work. Her first child was still-born but her daughter, Doreen born in 1913 pictured alongside her here, lived to the grand old age of 94! Sadly Victoria contracted influenza and died at Tyntesfield in 1920. George subsequently married Ursula Lawley. The couple had two sons George and Eustace. Here’s the Wikipedia link which gives lots more information on the Gibbs family and the house.

The tour of the house ends at the Chapel which is just superb. Beautiful stained glass windows, ornate stonework, bejewelled crosses on the walls and a stunning altarpiece. A lovely way to round off the visit.

The Chapel at Tyntesfield. Licensed for family services but never consecrated.

I hope this Blog shows how much there is to see at Tyntesfield. Our next visit will be in the summer when we can explore the grounds a little more. The house isn’t open every day at the moment so it’s worth checking the website before you visit as it would be a shame not to be able to see inside this fascinating Gothic pile.

One thought on “Christmas at Tyntesfield

  1. Thank you for a wonderful visit to Tyntesfield. It’s a beautiful house that has been gracefully maintained with extensive gardens and very attractive decor. How special to see it decorated for the Christmas Season! I swept back into another era.

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