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The estate of Dyrham was acquired by the Wynter family in 1571, and a licence was granted to Sir George Wynter in 1620 to empark and stock lands in the manors of Dyrham and Hinton.

William Blathwayt gained possession of Dyrham in 1689, having married Mary Wynter in 1686. He commissioned a survey of the estate and began to construct an elaborate formal garden. George London was employed to design the garden, which had parterres, terraces, canals, fountains and a large cascade. Thomas Hurnall was gardener at Dyrham.

Letters and accounts now in the Dyrham archives in the Gloucestershire Archives Office document the process of construction between 1691 and 1704. An engraving by Kip (which appeared in Sir Robert Athyn's The Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire in 1712) is usually taken as providing a good record of how the finished garden looked. A recent discovery of a detailed description of the garden by Stephen Switzer, (published in the Iconographia Rustica Vol. III in 1718), has confirmed that Kip's engraving of the garden was substantially accurate.

The construction of the great Baroque garden at Dyrham came at a time when fashions were changing and attitudes to garden design were radically altered. As early as 1709 Shaftesbury had written that 'the wilderness pleases'. By the 1730s landowners were moving away from the formal style of gardening dominated by Le Notre. Instead they favoured a more natural style, which became common by the middle of the 18th century. Blathwayt's elaborate garden was soon a stylistic anachronism.

The subsequent history of the garden is fragmentary. An estate map by Giles Coates (1766) shows much of London's layout surviving, including the canal, terraces, wilderness and nursery. The cascade is not shown. In 1779 Rudder (see references) wrote that 'There is a park adjoining the gardens, but the curious waterworks, which were made at great expense, are much neglected and going to decay'. Ralph Bigland wrote in 1791 of the pleasure grounds 'now reconciled to Modern Taste'.

In 1798-99 C. Harcourt-Masters, a Bath surveyor, had the drive re-routed along its present line, and Anthony Mitchell suggests that actual  dismantling of the garden must have gone on before this. Humphry Repton visited Dyrham in 1800 and made some suggestions for landscaping, but these do not appear to have been acted upon.

Today the statue of Neptune is the only surviving remnant of the Baroque garden. However, many of the outlines of the garden may be seen on the ground, particularly in dry weather. The lime trees now in the church walk may date from the late 17th century. Anthony Mitchell suggests that the copper beech in the formal garden may have been Repton's work. Specimen trees have been continuously planted at Dyrham for several hundred years, a process which is actively continuing.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

 

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

The earliest suggestion of a park at Dyrham is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which records the Battle of Deorham in AD 571 or 577, the name being thought to derive either from dwr meaning water and referring to the springs in the area, or from deor hamme, a deer enclosure. The Domesday survey however contains no reference to the place, and the development of the present site dates from a grant of free warren to Robert Walerand in 1259. By 1311 Sir William Russel's estate at Dyrham is recorded as a capital messuage with garden and dovecote.

In 1416 Dyrham passed from the Russel family to Sir Gilbert Denys, whose house appears to have been on the site of the present mansion. In 1511 a licence to impark 500 acres (about 202 hectares) in the manor of Dyrham was granted to Sir William Denys, although only some 250 acres (about 100 hectares) appear to have been taken in to form what is now known as the Old Park. Leland (about 1535) records a 'faire howse of Achelie Stones and a fayre parke' at Dyrham (Mitchell 1977/8).

In 1571 Sir Walter Denys sold 'the manor and park of Dyrham' to George and William Wynter of Lydney, the park being recorded on Saxton's 1577 map of Gloucestershire. In 1620 Sir George Wynter was granted licence to impark and stock lands in the manors of Dyrham and Hinton, creating the New Park around the house, and probably resulting in the conversion of the Old Park to farmland. The Wynter family continued to own Dyrham, under increasing financial problems, until the heiress Mary Wynter married William Blathwayt in 1686, who took over the estate after the death of Mary's father in 1689.

Blathwayt, an influential and wealthy member of William III's civil service, Secretary at War 1683-1704 and Secretary of State 1692-1701, commissioned major works to the house and garden in the period 1691-1704, including the elaborate formal layout recorded in Kip's engraving, published by Atkyns in 1712, and in Stephen Switzer's (1682-1745) description of 1718. This comprised an extensive water garden to the east, and terraces and a wilderness to the north. The overall design of the garden is thought to have been by George London (d 1714)(Fretwell 1997).

By 1779, the park and the waterworks are noted by Samuel Rudder as 'much neglected and going to decay', and they had been removed by about 1790. Remodelling of the parkland east of the house including the new approach (c 1798-1800) was overseen by Charles Harcourt Masters (1759-?), a Bath architect and surveyor. Humphry Repton (1752-1818) and John Adey Repton (1775-1860) were paid for designs for minor garden works in 1801 and 1803, including a design for a modest classical pavilion on the terraces north of the house, of which no trace has been found on site.

Little appears to have been done in the 19th century. A cedar plantation features to the north- west of the house in a view of about 1840 (Hullmandel), while other views emphasise the mature, wooded nature of the house's setting. Between 1839 and 1871, Colonel George Blathwayt seems to have been an enthusiastic planter, but the dominant parkland character derives from the remnants of the formal avenue-planting of the late 17th century, overlain with the less formal planting of the early 19th century. The estate remained in the possession of the Blathwayt family until about 1957, when it was bought by the Ministry of Works and transferred to the National Trust, in whose care it remains (2002).

Site history key facts

Historical use of site

1620 to 1956: Private residence

1956 to 2008: National Trust property

Site timeline

1800: Humphry Repton gives advice on the garden.

1956: The house and its contents were bought by the National Land Fund, in memory of those who had died during the war.

2004: A dedicatory plaque, featuring images of the house, deer and park, was unveiled.

People associated with this site

Architect: Samuel Hauduroy (Known to have been active 1692 to )

Nurseryman: George London (died 12/01/1714)

Surveyor: Charles Harcourt Masters (born 1759 )

Designer: Humphry Repton (born 21/04/1752 died 24/03/1818)

Architect: William Talman (born 1650 died 22/11/1719)

Builder: Edward Wilcox

Features

specimen tree

Copper beech tree, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Horse chestnut trees, in the formal garden and in the park.

specimen tree

London Plane trees, in the formal garden and in the park.

specimen tree

Holm oak trees, in the formal garden and in the park.

hedge

Large mature yew hedge, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Silver pear tree, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Ash trees, in the formal garden and in the park.

specimen tree

Lawson Cypress tree, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Sycamore tree, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Holly tree, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Tulip tree, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Hazel tree (double avenue), in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Various maple trees, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Turkey Oak tree (with Lucombe oak grafted on) in the park.

specimen tree

Sweet chestnut tree in the park.

specimen tree

Walnut tree in the park.

statue

Feature created: 1691 to 1704

Creator: John Harvey (Known to have been active 1735 to 1735)

The statue of Neptune is the only surviving remnant of the Baroque garden. It was created by John Harvey of Bath. The statue originally stood in a small pond at the head of a large cascade. It is now isolated in grass at the brow of a small hill. The original trident is missing.

Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Designation Grade II

specimen tree

Manor ash tree, in the formal garden.

specimen tree

Various pine trees, in the formal garden. There are Scots pine and Austrian pine trees in the park.

specimen tree

Beech tree, in the formal garden.

icehouse

There is continued speculation about the existence of an ice-house at Dyrham Park. Despite this the feature has been given a number in the Avon County Sites and Monuments Record.

Designation status: Local Listing or Building of Local Importance Designation Reference 3152

orangery

A large orangery adjoins the south wing of the mansion house. This can be considered more as part of the house than as a garden building. It is currently used as a cafeteria, although shrubs are grown along the back wall of the orangery. Several orange trees in tubs were standing outside the orangery when the site was visited in winter 1984.

specimen tree

Various cedar trees, in the formal garden. There are also Cedars of Lebanon in the park.