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  • Writer's pictureLilium

Tyntesfield House - Enchanting Havens

Tyntesfield is a Victorian Gothic Revival house and estate near Wraxall, North Somerset, England. Originally a smaller Georgian house, Tyntesfield was transformed into a Gothic Revival masterpiece.

My visit to Tyntesfield was very spontaneous, I was returning home to South Wales from a photography course in Cheddar Gorge last August when I saw the sign for "Tyntesfield, next left". There was no way I could just drive past without visiting. It was towards the end of the day so it was relatively quiet as I made my way down to the house.

Gothic Revival is always my first choice when it comes to country houses to visit, Tyntesfield had been on my bucket list ever since I had watched the 2017 adaption of Agatha Christie's 'Crooked House' where the staircase was almost a character in itself. The house was truly magnificent, standing there against a cloudy sky in all its gothic glory.

Through an arch porch inscribed in Latin and it was as if one were in a church, which was its original intention as this entrance hall was called "The Cloister". A sign informed "Tyntesfield was the country retreat of Anglo-Spanish merchant and business man, William Gibbs and his family. They chose the Gothic Revival style to reflect their 'High Church' or Tractarian Christian faith. With its arches and vaulted ceiling, the entrance cloister evokes the church of the middle ages." A hall stand carved with various leaves, vines and pinecones ran the length of the Cloister, the ceiling was vaulted and an unusual green and white chequered floor led to a door on the left, a door to my favourite room, the Library.

The Library was very unusual, with a church like ceiling all in natural wood with various borders carved in more Latin which I learned was William's Spanish motto: 'En Dios mi amparvo y esperanza' - In God my refuge and hope. This library certainly felt like a refuge, it contained around 3,000 books of art, poetry, history, science and gardening. Curtains had once been fitted across the bay window to create a stage for family theatrical productions.

The Library led on to Mr. Gibbs' Room, which was used by William as his place of retreat and study. It was panelled in carved wood reminiscent of the cloister, a round edge desk sat at the centre of the room and a Pre-Raphaelite painting hung by the door.

This door led through to the Vestibule, a beautiful space with ornate marble door frames, hand printed green wallpaper and two statues either side of the dinning room door.

The dining room was heavy with unusual floral leather wallpaper and a wood panelled ceiling. There were a pair of Sèvres porcelain vases on the mantelpiece that were bought at the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851 but it was the mantlepiece itself that stole the show.

Returning through the Vestibule and through into the Hall, this was the heart of this Gothic Revival home. "Soaring 43 feet to the lantern roof of English Oak, the Hall and galleried landings were designed to create a sense of awe and Gothic grandeur. The family decked the walls with coastal scenes, family portraits and Spanish religious painting that reflects the Gibbs' maritime links and William's loves of Spain." A sense of awe truly was the feeling that it conjured up but there was a more heartfelt message hidden in the fireplace. Inscribed into the marble fireplace was a Latin Epigram: Prudens simplicitas, Pares amici, Convictus facilis, Focus perennis - 'Wise candour, congenial friends, affable company, a fireplace that does not go out.'

Beneath the column's of the stairs was a door to a hallway known as the Garden Lobby, where various cabinets were filled with blue and white china.

Taking a right into a narrow corridor and the first room one is met with is Mrs Gibbs' room also known as the Boudoir. "The finely carved panelling reflects the family's passion for nature and, possibly, their South American links. Many of the plants depicted are grown on the estate, including the Chilean Bellflower, the national flower of Chile, which still grows in the Old Orange Garden today."

Past the Garden Porch and into the Billiard Room, whose ceiling felt just as imposing as the Hall's. Caught in a moment of mid preservation, a collection of animal heads destined for the wall were clustered on the billiards table.

Back through the narrow corridor to the Garden Lobby and into the Organ Room. As one would expect there was a small but ornately carved organ at one end of the room, the rest of the walls were covered in bookcases full of old tombs and a large table sat at its centre. The wallpaper pattern was reminiscent of an illuminated manuscript.

This led on to a large Ante Room, wallpapered in gold damask, a painting of Madonna and the child with St John the Baptist by Bellini hung over the Italian marble fireplace.

One door in the Ante Room looked on to what was once the Morning Room, but was now being used as a storeroom for the extraordinary objects that were waiting for the renovations to be completed before they could return to their rightful places.

The other door led to the drawing room, which despite its high ceilings, felt rich and heavy due to the mix of wine coloured velvets and damasks. Various paintings were hung around the room and by the door one large portrait was resting on a stand in mid conservation, Saint Lawrence Holding his Gridiron.

It was finally time to ascend the great stairs of the Hall, the landing gave the opportunity to be eye to eye with the various portraits along the walls.

The first open bedroom was the Charlton Room, decorated in subtle hues of cream, red and gold, a small tower room was in a corner where the blinds fluttered softly in the wind from the open window making a pleasant noise.

This led on to the Charlton Bathroom which matched the bedroom but had an unusual open cabinet full of tinctures, powders and extracts, most still full. It brought contradicting images to my mind of the possible resident of the Charlton Room, a doctor? A hypochondriac? A fine lady (or more interestingly a fine gentleman) attempting to replicate the beauty regime of Cleopatra? I am sure as the house is restored, new information will come to light and perhaps my questions will be answered.

Through into new corridors, one after the other with stained a stained glass windows and doors, one with a pattern of gold acorns particularly caught my attention.