Dyrham Park is a beautiful baroque English manor house just outside of the town of Bath in Somerset. You may recognize the house from its appearance in The Remains of the Day starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.
On a previous visit to Bath, we kept driving by the entrance to Dyrham and never ventured in (smacks forehead). Too many other things to see!
The property goes way back; it’s recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, when it comprised 34 households. William Denys, who was an Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII (only the English could have dreamed up such job description) was likely the first lord of the manor.
The name “Dyrham” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word dirham, an enclosure for deer. Denys was granted the licence to empark 500 acres in 1511, meaning he could enclose the land with a wall or hedgebank and maintain a captive herd of deer within the park, thus giving him exclusive hunting rights; so much for the peasants…
The trend continued.The estate was sold to the Wynter family in 1571 and Sir George Wynter was allowed to empark further land in 1620. Mary Wynter, being the only surviving child of John Wynter, a descendant of George Wynter, inherited the house. She married William Blathwayt in 1689 and they embarked on a significant renovation which incorporated the existing Tudor House. The refurbishment proceeded in fits and starts during the 17th and early 18th centuries; contractors haven’t changed, it seems.
The east front of Dyrham Park (seen above) was designed by William Talman, architect of Chatsworth, in Derbyshire (shown below), one of my all-time favourite Manor Houses in England, and on whose grounds we stayed in the Hunting Tower last year. There is a lot of similarity in the designs, don’t you think?
Fallow deer still roam freely in the surrounding 274 acres of parkland, held at bay from the gorgeous, newly restored formal gardens with cattle gates.
The west front of the house sports an Italianate double staircase leading from the terrace to the grounds, which you can see in the very centre of the photo below.
Thus the house bursts with artwork and furniture from around the world, particularly Holland. Lots of defltware! The parrot tulips are actually paper, but they look amazingly realistic.
(Sorry, this picture is a bit fuzzy; the lighting was challenging and I didn’t have a tripod.)
Looking up through the staircase to the painted ceiling.
The house also has a wonderful collection of Dutch Masters.
One of the most famous is this ingenious picture “View of a Corridor” painted in 1662 by Samuel Dirksz van Hoogstraten. It hangs in a doorway, beckoning the eye to enter the trompe l’oeil world beyond.
The doors at the house are intriguing. Not only are they gorgeously gilded, the locks are intricately designed and can be set to different combinations. Ingenious, especially for the time!
You see all the different deadbolts?
They can be set using small, flowered knobs on the door.
Look closely at the floral motif to see the numbers!
I always love visiting the kitchens, and this one had a fine selection of shiny copper pots.
Back outside, St. Peter’s, the 13th-century church where many of the Blathwayt family are buried, gazes down on the courtyard near the formal gardens,
Up the stone staircase, complete with balustrade, turn the corner and approach the church itself.
I have to wonder how peacefully the family is resting, given the wild angles of the headstones.
The church is small and seems downright cramped with the massive tomb over in one corner.
The tomb belongs to George Wynter of the second deer emparking scenario.
Back down the path, and see the house from the formal gardens.
The house and estate are now owned by the National Trust and they have embarked on another renovation centered around the gardens. Their website has a very good history of the house and the Blathwayt family if you’d like any more details.
Thank you for joining me on this visit to Dyrham Park.
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.