Now, here’s the thing. Remember how I said that when I visited Berkeley Castle recently after having last been there on a school trip in the 1970s it was incredibly familiar and I could recall so much about it. Well, just a few weeks earlier I paid a visit to Dyrham Park, near Bath. This is another historic house I had last visited on a school trip way back in the 70s. And guess what – I could hardly remember a thing about it!
Which makes me wonder why, because it’s definitely somewhere I’m surprised hadn’t made a bigger impression on me. Perhaps not having a murdered king connection weighed against it.
Anyway, if you should find yourself trundling down (or up) the M4 near junction 18 and you fancy a dollop of National Trust style culture, pull off at Dyrham Park and have a look around.
You should know that it’s a bit of a walk down to the house from the car park but you can hitch a ride on the buggy if you need to. (It’s downhill to the house, so you might prefer to save the buggy ride for the return journey). As you make your way there, look out for the deer which roam around the park (indeed the name Dyrham comes from the Anglo-Saxon name for a deer park so we can assume they’ve been here some time).
The house itself appears to be trapped in the bottom of a little valley. It has an odd arrangement, but that’s because like many other English country houses, it grew and was adapted and updated over several generations. If you remember that there was once an Elizabethan manor house on the site which was subsequently hacked about, the slightly strange positioning makes a bit more sense (although perhaps not).
Inside, you once again find yourself exploring a fascinating but for me at least incoherent arrangement of rooms. I couldn’t help feeling that the family who lived there in the eighteenth century would have been better off just scrapping the old place and starting from scratch, but instead they made a valiant attempt to reuse what they already had. You visit some of these old stately homes and immediately feel as if you’d be able to live in them, but others and for me Dyrham fits this category, are just awkward.
But don’t get me wrong, for all its quirks, I still thoroughly enjoyed looking around. It has some really beautiful architectural features. (One of the facades was designed by the same architect who designed Chatsworth).
If you visit, once you’ve walked around the main house, make sure you don’t miss the servants quarters. I’m going to admit to liking this area better than the main house. There’s also a second-hand bookshop in the old kitchen, which you should certainly see books or no books.
And then visit the church which butts up against the house to one side. This is much older than the current house and includes some impressive tombs and memorials.
Oh and the gardens are indeed absolutely lovely both in their own right and as a frame for the house. We were there before the spring had really kicked in but you could already tell that the gardens were going to be fabulous over the coming months.
So why did none of it come back to mind? You know I just can’t put my finger on it. Still I”m pretty sure I won’t forget it again and I’d certainly pop back for another visit if I was going to be in the area for a while.
Planning a visit?
Here’s the link to the National Trust website. Check for opening times.
8 thoughts on “Dyrham Park – lost in the mists of time…”
I visited Dyrham a few years ago so I do remember it [ which is a relief ] but more so the exterior than the interior, so thanks for this reminder Anny. Lovely images.
Funny isn’t it that the interior has less impact – perhaps you have to know it very well before it releases its charms, but all I kept thinking was how impractical it would be to live in (as if I’d ever be likely) – but you know the feeling…
Isn’t it interesting how some places stay with us and others just don’t have the same impact? And it’s not always obvious what it is. Dyrham Park looks worth a visit though, and the pictures are great x
True, I’m still not sure why I didn’t remember more about it, I usually remember everything – perhaps I was having an off day. It’s definitely worth visiting – and really close to Bath if you’re spending time around there.
Maybe you had a better guide on your first visit to Berkeley? Or maybe there weren’t any striking stories?
Now that’s what I did wonder about. We probably didn’t have a guide at all – but I can’t remember!
Beautiful, evocative images Anny, it looks a rather mysterious place, as if it were hiding some secrets, I like it 😊
The more I think about it, the more it makes me want to go back and have another look around. There’s some interesting trompe l’oeil effects which add to the mystery but I didn’t get good pictures of those – worthy of a return visit.