Tyntesfield National Trust house and gardens

Tyntesfield is a Victorian Gothic Revival house near Bristol. The mansion was built in the 1830s. It was later bought by English businessman William Gibbs, whose huge fortune came from importing guano (bird droppings) used as fertilizer. In the 1860s Gibbs had the house expanded and remodelled. The architectural style selected for the rebuilding was a loose Gothic, combining many forms and reinventions, of the medieval style. The choice of Gothic was influenced by William Gibb’s Anglo-Catholic beliefs as a follower of the Oxford Movement. This movement advocated the revival of the medieval Gothic style, and “a return to the faith and the social structures of the Middle Ages”. We visited in May 2018.

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Tyntesfield National Trust house

In 2002 the Tyntesfield estate came up for auction following the death of its owner and the substantial death duties that became payable. Concerned with the demolition and desecration of various historic country houses in recent years, the National Trust launched a “Save Tyntesfield” campaign. It collected £8 million in just 100 days, with £3 million from the public plus two substantial anonymous donations of £1 million and £4 million. The Trust also received £17 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The National Lottery earmarked a further £25 million for the major conservation work needed.

Tyntesfield National Trust house

The National Trust purchased the house, the kitchen garden, and the park. Starting out with a staff of 30 volunteers in 2002, recently the total of employed and volunteer staff exceeded 600, this is more than the number engaged by any other National Trust property.

Tyntesfield National Trust house

The initial conservation work focused around weatherproofing the house. The repair of the roof, including the restoration of the original bold red and black tiled geometric pattern. The entire property was rewired. Much of the original lead piping was replaced and a fireproofing scheme implemented. These initial works cost more than £10 million, much of which was raised through donations, via the “Save Tyntesfield” campaign, and the sale of lottery tickets to visitors.

At first the Trust had been reluctant to allow visitors to the house, while work was underway, especially taking into account the costs of Health and Safety requirements, and the delays these could cause to the essential preservation work. But the need for cash dictated the answer, and the Trust learnt that, through giving the public close access to the preservation work, they actually gave more additional donations as a result of seeing where their money was going, and how they were making a difference.

Camera: Sony RX100 V.