An extraordinary property

by Lyle Eveillé

Published in "The Review of the Charlotte Mary Yonge Fellowship"
Edition Number 19 – Winter 2004

An extraordinary property

SITUATED in the hills some seven miles south of Bristol, Tyntesfield was acquired in 1842 by William Gibbs and remained in the family until the death of George Gibbs, 2nd Baron Wraxall, in 2001. The subsequent purchase in 2002 heralded the largest project ever undertaken by the National Trust.

In the 1860s the somewhat modest country house was transformed by William into the grandest possible mansion. He and his wife Blanche were cousins and through the intricate Crawley network were thus, both of them, cousins of Miss Yonge. She often stayed with them and their seven children at Tyntesfield and would have worshipped with them in their private chapel, in the atmosphere of their active Tractarian support.

In a letter to Miss Lizzie Barnett (Coleridge, pp 309-10) on the death of Mr Gibbs in 1889, she commented:

"That beautiful house was like a church in spirit, I used to think so when going up and down the great staircase like a Y. At the bottom, after prayers, Mr Gibbs in his wheeled chair used to wish everyone good-night, always keeping the last kiss for 'his little maid/ Albinia, with her brown eyes and rich shining hair. She went a year before the old man - now fourteen years ago - but the dear Blanche did revive wonderfully, throwing herself into all her good works, and making her house such a place of rest and refreshment."

Since Tyntesfield reopened its doors in 2003, there have been some 28,000 visitors, all of whom have been required to book in advance for a guided tour.

According to an interview with the Visitor Services' Manager (BBC Radio 4 You and Yours, 5 April 2004), there is still an enormous amount of restoration work on the house to be undertaken by the National Trust, so only the Ground Floor is open at present. The Upper Floor is not likely to be ready for at least another six years. The task of cataloguing hundreds of thousands of items, room by room, is just beginning. Expert consultants are giving their attention to the study and restoration of the extensive estate gardens.

The house has immediate attraction for members of the Fellowship. I am therefore proposing to arrange a "group" visit in Summer 2005.

The visit has now taken place and was a great success.
Details and photos in the next edition of the CMYF Review and on this website


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