Archive for the ‘North Somerset’ Category

Cover to reveal

June 17, 2014
Collections officer Ruth Moppett showing the protective Eyemats in the chapel at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust

Collections officer Ruth Moppett showing the protective Eyemats in the chapel at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust

I just read on the National Trust’s South West Blog that the colleagues at Tyntesfield have commissioned high-tech floor coverings for the high Victorian chapel there.

View into the chapel. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

View into the chapel. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

The chapel floor is an elaborate and sumptuous feature created by Powell and Sons for the ‘high church’ Gibbs family in the early 1870s. The materials used include marble, faience, Mexican onyx and blue john or Derbyshire fluorspar.

Detail of the vine leaf mosaic on the floor of the chapel. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

Detail of the vine leaf mosaic on the floor of the chapel. ©National Trust Images/John Hammond

The floor is too fragile to withstand the wear and tear of the 220,000 visitors that Tyntesfield receives each year. So previously there had been carpets in the chapel, but that meant that the floors could not really be appreciated.

Quatrefoil stained glass window in the chapel at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

Quatrefoil stained glass window in the chapel at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust Images/Nadia Mackenzie

So Tyntesfield commissioned the Eyemats company to create protective flooring printed with ultra high definition photographs of the floor. These ‘mats’ are so realistic that visitors often don’t notice them at all. And it allows the design of the floor to be appreciated in concert with the other decorations and furnishings in the chapel.

Detail of the wrought iron gate through which the priest would enter the chapel. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Detail of the wrought iron gate through which the priest would enter the chapel. ©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel

Similar illusionistic floorings has been used at a number of other National Trust properties and also at places such as Bowhill, Dumfries House and Houghton Hall. Apart from being a practical solution, they can also be appreciated as a metaphor for conservation in general: a little bit of artifice to bring out more of the historical reality of a place.

A Madonna returns to Tyntesfield

August 15, 2013
©National Trust/SWNS

©National Trust/SWNS

At the end of last week a rather special painting returned to Tyntesfield. The picture of the Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist was painted by the Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini and his workshop in the late 15th century.

The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist, by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516). ©National Trust/SWNS

The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist, by Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516). ©National Trust/SWNS

In 1880 it was purchased by Anthony Gibbs (1841-1907) from a London dealer, to add to the growing collection of old master paintings at Tyntesfield begun by his father, William Gibbs (1790-1875).

Andrew Kent (kneeling) and Aaron Shaw of Fine Art Transport Services preparing and checking the fixings of the frame. ©National Trust/SWNS

Andrew Kent (kneeling) and Aaron Shaw of Fine Art Transport Services preparing and checking the fixings of the frame. ©National Trust/SWNS

William Gibbs had presided over the expansion of the family trading firm, particularly through the mining and shipping of guano, which was in demand as an agricultural fertiliser. The profits from this enabled him not just to rebuild and redecorate the house and to expand his art collection, but also to fund numerous philanthropic projects.

Curator Stephen Ponder communing with the picture. ©National Trust/SWNS

Curator Stephen Ponder communing with the picture. ©National Trust/SWNS

The decoration of Tyntesfield is an embodiment of the ideal, formulated by John Ruskin (1819–1900) in his book The Stones of Venice (1851–3), of a synthesis between the spiritual and the aesthetic.

Alex Smith, assistant house manager at Tyntesfield, cleaning the glass of the box frame before the paintings goes up on the wall. ©National Trust/SWNS

Alex Smith, assistant house manager at Tyntesfield, cleaning the glass of the box frame before the paintings goes up on the wall. ©National Trust/SWNS

The novelist Charlotte Yonge (1823-1901), a cousin of William Gibbs, seems to have been responding to this when she remarked that ‘that beautiful home was like a church in spirit.’

The picture ready to go up. ©National Trust/SWNS

The picture ready to go up. ©National Trust/SWNS

The fact that Tyntesfield is a largely complete survival of a high-Victorian country house in the Ruskinian mould was one of the reasons why the National Trust decided to try to acquire it following the death of Richard Gibbs, 2nd Lord Wraxall (1928-2001). The appeal was a success, attracting huge support from the public as well as an unprecedentedly large grant from the National Heritage memorial Fund.

The painting is first rested on the marble chimneypiece. ©National Trust/SWNS

The painting is first rested on the marble chimneypiece. ©National Trust/SWNS

The painting was accepted in lieu of inheritance tax by the Government and initially displayed at the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. It was recently reallocated to the National Trust for display at Tyntesfield.

The final adjustments to the picture chains. ©National Trust/SWNS

The final adjustments to the picture chains. ©National Trust/SWNS

The return of the painting is an indication that, following the restoration of the house, Tyntesfield now meets the standards required for looking after and displaying works of this calibre.

A job well done. ©National Trust/SWNS

A job well done. ©National Trust/SWNS

The picture, which was painted on a wooden panel, had been given a box frame in 1969 to protect it against environmental changes. Some of the strain required in lifting such a heavy object is visible in the photographs shown here, but everyone involved was very pleased with the result.

Piecing together the Tyntesfield orangery

February 9, 2012

The orangery at Tyntesfield, as found. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

When the National Trust took on Tyntesfield, the high-Victorian country house near Bristol, in 2002, the orangery there was in very poor condition due to long-term lack of maintenance, with shrubs growing through the roof and rain pouring in.

Work underway at the orangery. ©NTPL/John Millar

Last year saw the start of a three-year project to restore this listed building to its full late-Victorian glory. The aim of the project is not just to restore the orangery, but also to provide training oportunities in buildings conservation and stone masonry.

Stone mason finishing off a cornice. ©NTPL/John Millar

Extra funding was obtained from the Commercial Education Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund to allow students from City of Bath College and other groups to work on the orangery together with the expert stone masons of Nimbus Conservation.

The worn capital of one of the pilasters awaiting replacement. ©NTPL/John Millar

Over 6,000 visitors have also been able to see the ongoing work from a specially constructed viewing platform. In October 2011 the project was awarded an English Heritage Angels Award, a scheme founded by Andrew Lloyd Webber to celebrate the efforts of local people in rescuing their heritage.

A newly carved capital. ©NTPL/John Millar

Bookings are now being taken for workshops and tours in spring/summer 2012: contact Katie Laidlaw at katie.laidlaw@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Spanish art in North Somerset

March 30, 2011

Tyntesfield in its park. ©NTPL/Steve Stephens

The scaffolding that swathed Tyntesfield, in North Somerset, has now disappeared, as another phase in the conservation programme is completed. You can see a time-lapse image here – if you look closely you can also see the spire being put back on by a huge crane.

Studio of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Mater Dolorosa. ©Christie's

Another recent development is the installation of a painting from the studio of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-1682), entitled The Mater Dolorosa, or ‘mother of sorrows’. It depicts the Virgin Mary mourning the death of her son, painted with such realism that it could almost be an ordinary Spanish woman at prayer.

The Mater Dolorosa newly installed in the Hall at Tyntesfield. ©National Trust/Sally Williams

The picture was bought at auction at Christie’s in New York in 2009. It may be the picture that William Gibbs, the rebuilder of Tyntesfield, bought in Seville in 1853. His nephew Henry Hucks Gibbs said of it at the time that ‘the expression of the countenance I think I have never seen surpassed.’

The Hall at Tyntesfield. Since this photograph was taken it has been rearranged to reflect its Edwardian use as a sitting room. Visitors can now sit down here to savour the ambiance. ©NTPL/Steve Stephens

We are not sure whether this newly acquired picture is the exact same one that Gibbs bought (and which was later sold from the house), but even if it isn’t, it is likely to be almost identical. It was common practice for artists and their studios to make several versions of their paintings.

Portrait of William Gibbs by Sir William Boxall, RA, 1859. ©NTPL/John Hammond

William Gibbs (1790-1875) was born in Spain, where his father was engaged in trade. This, and his profoundly religious nature, explains his predilection for seventeenth-century Spanish painting.

William himself also became a merchant, and eventually made a huge fortune exporting guano, which was increasingly being used as agricultural fertiliser, from South America. This enabled him to rebuild Tyntesfield as a large, high-Victorian Gothic country house in the 1860s.

Lest we forget

September 8, 2010

Aerial view of Tyntesfield from the west. ©NTPL/Steve Stephens

Yesterday seventy years ago the London Blitz began. Between 7 September and 2 November 1940 the city was bombed every single day or night.

The east front of Tyntesfield. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

Remembering the tragedies of history is just as important as remembering its glories – and indeed they are inextricably linked. That was the inspiration behind the National Land Fund, which was set up in 1946 with the proceeds from the sale of surplus war materiel.

The entrance hall. ©NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie

Its aim was to purchase nationally important land and buildings as ‘a thank-offering for victory and a war-memorial which many would think finer than any work of art in stone of bronze’. However, the fund was initially little used.

The hall with the main staircase. ©NTPL/Steve Stephens

It was only the sale of Mentmore Towers and its contents in 1977 that reinvigorated the debate about funding for heritage.

The library. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

In 1980 the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) was set up which inherited the Land Fund capital and was given a remit to acquire, maintain or preserve any land, building or structure, or any object or collection which is of outstanding scenic, historic, aesthetic, architectural, scientific, or artistic interest.

The dining room. ©NTPL/Steve Stephens

In the 30 years since then, the National Trust has received over £73 million in grants from the NHMF. Many projects would have been impossible without the NHMF’s support.

One of those projects was the acquisition of Tyntesfield, the Victorian country house and estate in North Somerset, which was purchased with almost all of its contents in 2002 – saved in memory of the sacrifices made during the Second World War.


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