Grid Ref: ST 506 711
Date: 6 May 2011


The bay window at the right hand side of the picture above
The house and chapel

Tyntesfield lies about seven miles west of Bristol near Wraxall. This Grade I listed house was purchased by the National Trust in 2002, one of only four so far acquired this century, the others being Croome Court, Godolphin and Seaton Delaval. It is to William Gibbs that we owe the current house and chapel.

William Gibbs (1790-1875), was born in Devon but brought up partly in Spain where his father was involved in the wool trade. William joined the family business and subsequently made his fortune by shipping guano (bird droppings) for use as fertilizer from Peru and Bolivia. From just 182 tons in 1942 the business grew when Peru gave Gibb's firm a monopoly on the trade and eventually 211,000 tons a year were exported in 1856 and 435,000 tons in 1862. In the 1850s and 1860s the firm made profits of 80 to £100,000 a year. Eventually other forms of fertilizer were developed and the guano trade went into decline. Gibbs' company then diversified.

At one stage Gibbs was said to be the richest man without a title in England. Leviathans of wealth at this time would be some of the Dukes who owned land in several counties such as the Dukes of Sutherland, Devonshire and Bedford. Just before Gibbs' time, Richard Arkwright Junior (1755-1843), the son of Sir Richard Arkwright the cotton magnate, was the richest untitled man in England. He had diversified from cotton into real estate and banking and lent money to the Duchess of Devonshire.At his death in 1843,he was at the head of a fortune amounting to over three million pounds.

For most of his life Gibbs lived in London at 16 Hyde Park Gardens, travelling to Bristol on business. He bought as a residence Tyntes Place which was more convenient for Bristol and renamed it Tyntesfield. It was a Georgian mansion built in the 1830s on the site of a former hunting lodge. Gibbs began a major redevelopment of the site in Gothic style. He and his wife were very religious and of a high church persuasion being followers of the Oxford Movement. They had sympathy for the Augustus Pugin style of Gothic revival which they claimed was the only style suitable for Christian worship. Gibbs used the architect John Gregory Crace to redevelop the interiors in Gothic style in 1854. The building firm of William Cubitt was employed in 1863 to remodel the house in Gothic style. The chapel, built on the model of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, was added between 1872 and 1877; the architect was Arthur Blomfield. The house, including the servants' wing and the chapel, was made a Grade II* listed building in 1973 and subsequently upgraded to Grade I.

William Gibbs was a philanthropist particularly in the area of church restoration and supported twelve projects including at St. Michael and All Angels in Exeter in his native Devon and the chapel and hall at Keble College in Oxford.

The Gibbs family owned the house until the death of Richard Gibbs in 2001. The house is remarkable for its Victorian interiors. I was unfortunate to arrive on a Friday en route for Cornwall and found the house closed but the gardens opened. However, in 2015, the house is open seven days a week.


Wikipedia sites on Tyntesfield, William Gibbs, Richard Arkwright junior

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