The Survival of Halswell

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.

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:

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The Kemeys-Tynte family and the Wharton Barony

A History.

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Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599 – 1641) Philip, The 4th Lord Wharton, aged 19.

The Wharton Barony passed into the Kemeys-Tynte family in 1916 due to the seventeenth-century marriage of the Hon. Mary Wharton (d.1699) and Sir Charles Kemeys, 3rd Bt. (d. 1702). Hon. Mary Wharton was the daughter of the 4th Baron, and aunt to the 1st Marquess of Wharton. The 2nd Marquess and 1st Duke of Wharton was a colourful character who due to his spendthrift character and Jacobite loyalties was deemed an outlaw and his titles were proclaimed forfeit in 1729. Though his sister Jane Wharton, 7th Baroness Wharton (1706–1761) became his sole heir in 1739 and held onto this older family title, on her death the title went into abeyance. It was only to be revived in 1916 by Charles Kemeys-Tynte (1876–1934) petitioning the House of Lords that the title could in fact pass through the female line, and therefore pass to the last prime descendent of the Whartons, via Hon. Mary Wharton, which was himself.

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The Historic Portraits of Halswell House

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.

Hogarth

Sir Charles Kemeys-Tynte by William Hogarth

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