Episode 1: Halswell Park
The first instalment in the Halswell Park documentary series.
Through interviews with art and architecture historian Roy Bolton, conservation director Mark Lidster and project architect Claire Fear, we delve into the history and legacy of historic Halswell House, how it came into the hands of current owner Edward Strachan and his vision of restoring the manor to its former glory as a true British landmark.
Amidst the Loss of England’s Country Houses
Halswell’s Baroque north range after the fire of 1923. The interiors were immediately restored precisely as they had been, while further upgrades were carried out throughout the whole house, a rare restoration in a century of mass country house destruction.
Matthew Beckett, in his excellent online catalogue of lost country houses, has compiled a tally of the great estates that have been lost in the last century in England alone, it stands at a staggering 1,935 lost houses. The numbers destroyed in Ireland, Wales and Scotland takes yet more vibrancy from the heritage and cultural life of the home nations. Great houses lost in Somerset alone include the following:
Dispersed during the break-up of the estate in 1950
Of the many paintings that hung at Halswell during the 900 years of Halswell/Kemeys-Tynte family possession, it is the portraits that are of the most significance. Many of these, including a portrait by William Hogarth of Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte, are now in the Pennington-Mellor-Munthe Collection at Southside House in Wimbledon, London. The Hogarth is particularly interesting as Sir Charles is posed as a garden designer with the Bath Stone Bridge in Mill Wood painted in the distance, still under scaffolding with masons carving and fixing stone. Sir Charles himself has a book titled Garden Plans at his side. The implication is that the sitter is not just a knight of the county but an active renaissance man of the Age of Enlightenment, bringing the newest forms of natural thinking to what was once a formal and rigid garden landscape. Generations earlier his forebears posed with the attributes of their military power that granted such local prestige to the family. But for Sir Charles art through architecture and nature were the attributes he wished to display to the world.
Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte by William Hogarth
Edward Strachan’s 50th Birthday
Edward Strachan and his wife Aliona
“Halswell has found its champion” proclaimed Marcus Binney of SAVE, as the walls of Halswell House filled with applause for new owner Edward Strachan. For the first time in many years, the atmosphere bore an element of a new beginning.
The North Face of Halswell House