Recently, I’ve read a blogpost on visiting Cracow at my friends website. Many readers stated in their comments, that contrary to tourists, locals never visit any interesting places in their towns, and can be completely oblivious about some of them. At first, I wanted to disagree, as I firmly believe, that only locals know, that Cracow is more, than just the Wawel Castle and the Cloth Hall (Sukiennice), and Warsaw doesn’t end on the Palace of Culture and Science. But then it occured to me, that many of us, caught on our daily business, fail to see many interesting places, even if we pass them by everyday on our way to work. We can spend hours reading various guides to most exotic corners of the Earth, checking exhibitions worth seeing, browsing through lists of cafes, while unknown to us, an exhibition of a famous artist’s works is being held in our very city. Thus, while we await our vacation, it’s good to check, if there are no new bistros being opened nearby, or attend a saturday night concert, or even try some quality time with our families at the museum.
Since I had some spare time, I decided upon enjoying the spring at Tyntesfield – which is a Victorian country manor. It is a perfect exapmle of thar period’s architecture. Lonely Planet dubbed it an „absurdly extravagant estate”.
There’s another reason to leave your car at the garage – a 20 percent discount at the local restaurant for all, who came on foot, by bicycle or via public transport. Be sure to spare some time for coffee and crumpets! The restaurant itself is far from exclusive, but still, it’s quite interesting, as it’s situated in an old stablehouse. You can still see the walls of horse stalls inside!
There’s also a large gift shop, where you can buy everything – guides and cookbooks, gadgets, like mugs and t-shirts, but also some lovely handcrafted items. There’s also an elevator, so it’s not a problem to visit with an elderly person or a baby stroller.
Before this huge estate (almost 500 acres!) became open to the public as a place of leisure, it was private property. Its first owners were the Tynte family, whose surname gave the house its name. According to historical accounts, the Tyntes have been living here since around 1500. The estate has been leased and sold a couple of times since then, until 1843, when it was bouth by an enterpreneur by the name William Gibbs, who decided to renovate and expand the manor. Gibbs made a fortune while selling fertilizers. The renovation consumed the equivalent of 18 month gross income from all of his enterprises. Gibbs has bought the neighbouring lands in order to expand his property. Around 500 people were employed at his estate.
Both William and his heirs have delved into large scale charity activities, supporting the local community. During World War 2 the manor was turned into a huge medical facility – the largest American hospital in Europe.
Tyntesfield’s last owner – Richard Gibbs – has decided, that the property is to be sold after his death, due to huge amounts of money needed for a general renovation. The new owners have received the house and nearby property, consisting of almost 2500 acres of agricultural land, over 1600 acres of forests and 30 houses. The Gibbs received a whooping amount of 15 milion stirling pounds, and almost twice as much by auctioning the manor’s furniture. The National Trust have only bought the central part of the estate, including the manor, the garden and the park. The head of National Trust had to show a feat of extraordinary persistence in acquiring the mansion, as it caught the attention of such celebrities as Madonna and Kylie Minogue. The mansion was renovated and the park returned to its former glory.
When visiting Tyntesfield, you can chose a ticket for the park only, or one including a tour inside the manor. The tour is unlike anywhere else. You need to go around the back and knock at the back door. The guests are being greeted by servants.
The main hall features a piano, and a charming elderly gentleman is playing some music. Each room has its own guide, who can tell you things about all the objects in the room and is happy to answer all your questions.
All in all, Tyntesfield is breathtaking.
Apart from the park, there’s also a kitchen garden, full of vegetables, fruit and flowers. These can be bought for a small donation. Most of the central estate is open for tourists, and everything is so pretty, that you wish you could stay there forever.
An adult’s ticket costs £16,30. For those, who only wish to see the park – £10,10. Members of the National Trust get free admission.