Historic House Visits Group

26th April 2004
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There were about ten of us who visited this glorious house and garden on whta was a particularly superb day.  Nowadays you park your car at the top of the park.  Either you walk down or take the free shuttle bus.  It is about half a mile to walk and the sweeping vistas are magnificent.
The gardens had some beautiful tulips, hellebores and fritillaries.  The perry pear trees were just into blossom too.
It was worth the trip of around 100 miles to see all this.
Dyrham Park  near Bath was built between 1691 and 1702 for William Blathwayt, secretary at state and at war to William III.  Furnished with paintings, furniture and ceramics, reflecting the Dutch style restored Victorian domestic rooms, including kitchen, bells passage, bakehouse, larders, tenants hall and delft-tiled dairy.

For photographs taken on that day taken by Sheila and Peter Read
As a consquence of Blathwayt’s royal connections and influential uncle Thomas Povey, the house was to become a showcase for his taste in Dutch decorative arts. The collection includes delftware, paintings and furniture; later 18th-century additions include furniture by Gillows and Linnell.  Restored Victorian domestic rooms include kitchens, tenants’ hall and delft-tiled dairy.

When Blathwayt purchased the estate in the late 1680s, his intentions were to build a new house, replacing the dilapidated Tudor manor house that he found on the site. Finances dictated that a more viable option would be to retain the core of the sprawling property and extend it gradually as money became available. In 1692 the new west range was started, followed by an even grander east range, then a stable block, and finally the Orangery. The transformation was completed in 13 years, and Blathwayt now had an elegant baroque mansion, which was later enhanced by fabulous gardens. Both house and gardens were heavily influenced by Dutch styling, and much of the internal decor and furnishings were also of Dutch origin.

Beyond a few essential repairs, Dyrham Park was left virtually untouched until the midddle of the 19th century. As ordinary country squires, Blathwayt's heirs did not appear to have the interest or the funds to make any substantial improvements or alterations to the house, or indeed maintain it properly. When the house passed to Colonel Blathwayt in 1844 he had to take out a very large loan to enable repairs and restoration at Dyrham, including buying back furniture and pictures that had been removed by his predecessor's family. The only other significant changes were a series of redecorations carried out between 1938 and 1946 by Lady Islington, a tenant during that time. By 1954 the house was again in a poor state of repair and the family had no alternative but to give it up.

What the visitor sees today is a superbly restored property containing many of the fine textiles, paintings, and Dutch ceramics collected by the builder. At the time of the Colonel's modernisations, the domestic rooms were relaid and the splendid Victorian kitchen, bakehouse and dairy make fascinating viewing. Unfortunately the complex arrangement of formal gardens, parterres, water features and terraces have long since disappeared, but a sketch made in 1710 gives a fairly accurate idea of the elaborate design.

It is now run by the National Trust.

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