Friday, 12 June 2015

Holiday I Tyntesfield

The bf and I have been off on our summer holiday.   Last week we took a cottage on the Tyntesfield estate just outside Bristol.  Tyntesfield is a small estate owned by The National Trust.  In the 1843 it had been acquired by William Gibbs, a member of a long established Tory family of bankers and merchants in the south west of England.  Perhaps the view, which is gorgeous, persuaded him. Gibbs had made his money importing guano from South America.  In the 1860s the existing house was thoroughly Gothicised by the Bristolian architect John Norton (1823-1904).  The result, for me, is not unlovable, but not immediately attractive.  It is not helped by the sharp Neo-classical masonry, or the plate glass in the windows.  The architecture is at times incredibly willful, if not perverse, though the details are amazing.  Indeed, no expense was spared: capitals and corbels burst forth with fruit and flowers and all sorts of beasts.  Seen from the west the house looks more like a village with each part of the house, almost each room, expressed by a separate roof.  All of this extravagance came a price and the twentieth century was a period of retrenchment as sections of the house were demolished or curtailed, e.g.  greenhouse (1919) and the tower, (1935).
The Gibbs family were also High Anglican ('High Church, High Tory') and it was that faith, 'fanned to a golden blaze', that was one of the forces behind the creation of the house, and in the 1870s the building of the chapel just to the north, and which is connected to the house by a bridge at first floor level.  In fact the best thing about the house is the chapel which is not by Norton, but Arthur Blomfield, who we have encountered before on this blog (Oundle).  It has a clarity of design and monumentality which is lacking in the house.  Blomfield was also better  at handling his wall surfaces.  Mark Girouard and other critics have seen the influence of the Sainte Chapelle, but I'm not so sure.  The Tyntesfield chapel is much more stocky, and standing on the drive above the chapel in the evening sun I was put in mind of the Lady Chapel at the former Benedictine monastery at St Germer de Fly; but after looking at the photographs in 'The Art of Gothic' (pub: Konemann)  I'm not sure about that either, so all I can say is that whatever the specific influence was, the chapel is definitely French in inspiration and leave it at that.  Both exterior and interior shows the High Victorian Gothic love of structural polychromy and some of the exterior details are particularly muscular, such as the side door which leads to the undercroft.  I think also that the interior shows the influence of F L Pearson.
The cottage we stayed in probably dated from before 1860 by the details and was home for the chaplains who served the household. I loved it, and I'd like to go back. The house next door, also now a holiday let, is much more sinewy design, and must be later in date.  One wishes the main house was a bit more like that, and a bit less 'Sleeping Beauty'.











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