Lest we forget

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.

12 Responses to “Lest we forget”

  1. littleaugury Says:

    It is a phenomena, impressive in every way -the keeping of these treasures. that war shaped every generation from then on in England it seems. I think facing war on one’s shores puts perspective on future War-that reality gives a different and more reverent meaning to a peace. Here in the US our shortsightedness – the mindset seems to be- just the opposite of Lest we forget,a danger in all things.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes I always find it fascinating how one war can be perceived so differently in different places – I suppose it epitomizes the fact that there is never just one history.

  3. Barbara Says:

    “Remembering the tragedies of history is just as important as remembering its glories – and indeed they are inextricably linked.” Very nice.

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    I hope it doesn’t sound too portentous 🙂

  5. Alex Pritchard Says:

    It’s really interesting to discover where the NHMF can trace its roots to.

    Working at Tyntesfield we often talk about our Victorian estate, but of course every Victorian building in this country, from Tyntesfield to the smallest terrace, have their own wartime stories to tell. Each is valid and every such building would have sheltered its owners and tenants, housed evacuees, exeprienced tragedy, or been shaken by the Luftwaffe’s bombs.

    Tyntesfield housed evacuees from Clifton High School in Bristol but, understandably, has a bigger story – a large WW2 American army camp was based here as well. Research is well-established and ongoing, so we can ensure their story is preserved and told forever.

    How fitting a lineage then, for a project that exists only because of the commitment of the NHMF, borne out of the National Land Fund.

    And it is still a great Victorian estate besides. We have a lot to be thankful for.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks very much for that contribution Alex – fascinating to hear about the evacuees and the army camp at Tyntesfield. Of course nearby Bristol was bombed heavily as well.

  7. Carl Deacon Says:

    Great post Emile

    May just be the shrunken image but the lighting in the dining room photo looks very authentic.

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks – yes it does, doesn’t it? I am not sure when they introduced electric light at Tyntesfield – must find out. The honey-coloured wood panelling seems to be very sympathetic to artificial light.

  9. Hels Says:

    Tyntesfield looks super, especially the hall with the main staircase. I would have preserved the building for that alone 🙂

    How is the building and its estate used, now that the money has been spent – a house-museum, weddings, school excursions, university conferences, war memorial functions?

  10. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    At the moment the house is shown very much as a restoration project in progress, explaining to visitors why and how the various works are being undertaken – so the house looks slightly less immaculate than in the images above, but more interesting in other ways.

    The team at Tyntesfield are also developing the potential of the estate for education and training. For instance, the Sawmill building is now being used for the learning programme and for other meetings and events. There are estate tours and kitchen garden demonstrations. And some of the houses and cottages on the estate are available as holiday lets.

    The general idea is to keep Tyntesfield going as a living estate, rather than as just a museum.

  11. Alex Pritchard Says:

    Emile – electric light was introduced by Antony Gibbs shortly after he moved his family in after the death of his mother Matilda in the late 1880s. Bulbs were prodigously expensive – each bulb would be like buying a new TV in today’s money.

    Power came from a steam engine and lead acid battery installation up at the Sawmill Engine House and Accumalator Room.

    There’s a diary entry from about 1890 when he stays up all night trying out all the new-fangled electrics… it must have seemed like wonderland to ordinary Victorians.

  12. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks Alex, this is exactly how blogs should work, with different people contributing knowledge and insights – excellent.

    Great image of Anthony Gibbs playing with the new electric lights – like someone now getting their new Ipad and not being able to put it down.

    I heard a story about Hatfield House (Cecil family) once where they had live electric wires running along the ceiling in the late nineteenth century. Every so often part of the network would start to smoulder, so they would through cushions up at it to extinguish it!

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