Longleat is an English stately home, currently the seat of the Marquesses of Bath, adjacent to the village of Horningsham and near the towns of Warminster in Wiltshire and Frome in Somerset. It is noted for its Elizabethan country house, maze, landscaped parkland and safari park. The house is set in over 900 acres (360 ha) of parkland, landscaped by Capability Brown, with 8,000 acres (3,200 ha) of woods and farmland. It was the first stately home to open to the public, and also claims the first safari park outside Africa. The house was built by Sir John Thynne, and designed mainly by Robert Smythson, after the original priory was destroyed by fire in 1567. It took 12 years to complete and is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in Britain. Longleat is currently occupied by Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, a direct descendant of the builder.

Longleat House and the Thynnes
Longleat was purchased by Sir John Thynn in 1541. He was the first of the Thynne 'dynasty' - the family name was Thynn or Thynne in the 16th century, later Thynne only, but the present head of the family reverted to the spelling Thynn in the 1980s.
  • Sir John Thynne (1515”“1580) purchased Longleat which was previously an Augustinian priory. He was a builder with experience gained from working on Syon House, Bedwyn Broil and Somerset House. In April 1567 the original house caught fire and burnt down. A replacement house was effectively completed by 1580. Adrian Gaunt, Alan Maynard, Robert Smythson, the Earl of Hertford and Humpfrey Lovell all contributed to the new building but most of the design was Sir John's work.
  • Sir John Thynn, Junior (1555”“1604)
  • Sir Thomas Thynn (1578”“1639)
  • Sir James Thynn (1605”“1670) who employed Sir Christopher Wren to do modifications to the house
  • Thomas Thynn (1646”“1682)
  • Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth (1640”“1714) started the house's large book collection. Formal gardens, canals, fountains and parterres were created by George London with sculptures by Arnold Quellin and Chevalier David. The Best Gallery, Long Gallery, Old Library and Chapel were all added due to Wren. In 1707, Thomas Thynne founded a grammar school for boys in the market town of Warminster, near to his family seat of, to teach the boys of Warminster, Longbridge Deverill, and Monkton Deverill. Over time this became known as the Lord Weymouth School, in 1973 Lord Weymouth's School merged with St. Monica's School for girls and continues today as Warminster School.
  • Thomas Thynne, 2nd Viscount Weymouth (1710”“1751) married Louisa Carteret whose ghost is reputed to haunt the house.
  • Thomas Thynne, 1st Marquess of Bath (1734”“1796) employed Capability Brown who replaced the formal gardens with a landscaped park and dramatic drives and entrance roads.
  • Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath (1765”“1837) employed Jeffry Wyatville to modernise the house and received advice from Humphrey Repton on the grounds. Wyatville demolished several parts of the house, including Wren's staircase, and replaced them with galleries and a grand staircase. He also constructed many outbuildings including the Orangery.
  • Henry Frederick Thynne, 3rd Marquess of Bath (1797”“1837)
  • John Alexander Thynne, 4th Marquess of Bath (1831”“1896) collected Italian fine arts. He employed John Crace, whose prior work included Brighton Pavilion, Woburn Abbey, Chatsworth House and the Palace of Westminster to add Italian renaissance style interiors.
  • Thomas Henry Thynne, 5th Marquess of Bath (1862”“1946). During World War I, the house was used as a temporary hospital. During World War II, it became the evacuated Royal School for Daughters of Officers of the Army. An Americal hospital was also constructed on the grounds.
  • Henry Frederick Thynne, 6th Marquess of Bath (1905”“1992). In 1947, death duties forced the sale of a large part of the Marquess' estates; in order to allow Longleat itself to survive, he opened the house to public visitors. Russell Page redesigned the gardens around the house to allow for tourists. The safari park opened in 1966.
  • Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath (born 1932) is an artist and mural painter with a penchant for mazes and labyrinths (he created the hedge maze, the love labyrinth, the sun maze, the lunar labyrinth and King Arthur's maze on the property).
The house is still used as the private residence of the Thynn family.

Longleat House tour
The tour of the house comprises:
  • The Elizabethan Great Hall, with a minstrels' gallery
  • The lower east corridor, a wide room originally used as servant access to the main rooms. This now holds fine furniture and paintings. Also on display are two visitor books, one showing the signatures of Elizabeth II and Philip, the other Albert ( George VI) and Elizabeth (the Queen Mother).
  • The ante-library, with a magnificent Venetian painting on the ceiling
  • The Red Library, which displays many of the 40,000 books in the house
  • The Breakfast Room, with a ceiling to match the ante-library
  • The Lower Dining Room
  • Stairs up, past a display of large early Meissen porcelain animals
  • The Bathroom and bath-bedroom: the bath is a lead-lined tub of coopered construction, originally filled by hand from buckets and drained the same way; taps and drains are now provided. The lead lining was replaced in 2005. The room holds the first plumbed in flush lavatory in the house.
  • The State Dining Room, with a Meissen porcelain table centrepiece
  • The Saloon
  • The State Drawing Room, designed by Crace
  • The Robes Corridor
  • The Chinese Bedroom
  • The Music Room, with instruments including a barrel organ
  • The Prince of Wales Bedroom, so named because of a large painting of Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales the brother of Charles I
  • The upper west corridor
  • The Grand Staircase
  • The Banqueting suite on the top floor of Longleat, the dining table commissioned from John Makepeace and the chandelier from Jocelyn Burton

Events and Filming
  • Longleat staged the Red Bull Air Race in 2005. The second Air Race event at Longleat took place in 2006 but was cancelled at the last minute due to poor weather conditions.
  • The Bollywood superhit film Mohabbatein starring Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan was filmed at Longleat which served as the location for the Gurukul School.
  • The Nature program Animal Park is filmed at the park.
  • A copy of the painting, The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies , from the BBC television sitcom 'Allo 'Allo, hangs in Longleat House.

Longleat Woods
Longleat Woods ( grid reference ST795435 ) is a 249.9 ha (618 acres) biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Somerset, notified in 1972. The Longleat Forest is also home to a holiday resort operated by Center Parcs. who operate several sites in the UK in forest areas, based on offering Activity Holidays in a rural parkland setting with accommodation in chalets or lodges and caravan parks.


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Building Activity

  • removed 2 media and updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • updated a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via Annotator