AlmondsburyDecember 7, 2016
East HarptreeMay 16, 2023
By Andrew Plaster. Published in BAFHS Journal 167 (March 2017).
The parish of Dyrham – formerly sometimes called Dyrham cum Hinton – in south Gloucestershire is about sixteen miles east of the city of Bristol and eight miles north of Bath, and is bounded by the parishes of Wapley & Codrington in the north, Tormarton, West Littleton and Marshfield in the east, Cold Ashton and Doynton in the south and Westerleigh and Pucklechurch in the west. The rural parish consists of two villages of Dyrham and Hinton, a hamlet of Tolldown, and the landscaped Dyrham Park. In the late 19th century, a civil parish was formed and is now known as Dyrham & Hinton.
The earliest suggestion of Dyrham is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which records the Battle of Deorham in 577 AD, the name being thought to derive either from dwr meaning water and referring to the springs in the area, or from deor hamme, a deer enclosure. There is still to be seen on Hinton Hill the remains of a Roman camp of about 18 acres which traditionally was the site of the battle.
The Domesday survey of 1086 however contains no reference to the place, and the development of the present site dates from a grant of free warren to Robert Walerand in 1259. By 1311 Sir William RUSSELL’s estate at Dyrham is recorded as a capital messuage with garden and dovecote. In 1416 Dyrham passed from the Russell family to Sir Gilbert DENYS. In 1511 a licence to impark 500 acres in the manor of Dyrham was granted to Sir William Denys, although only some 250 acres appear to have been taken in to form what is now known as the Old Park. Leland (c.1535) records a ‘faire howse of Achelie Stones and a fayre parke’ at Dyrham. The manor of Hinton was part of a monastic estate granted to the Corporation of Bristol after the dissolution of the monasteries, to relieve shipping tolls. In 1571 Sir Walter Denys sold ‘the manor and park of Dyrham’ to George and William WYNTER of Lydney, the park being recorded on Saxton’s 1577 map of Gloucestershire. In 1620 Sir George Wynter was granted licence to impark and stock lands in the manor of Dyrham, creating the New Park around the house, and probably resulting in the conversion of the Old Park to farmland. The Wynter family continued to own Dyrham, under increasing financial problems, until the heiress Mary Wynter married William BLATHWAYT in 1686, who took over the estate after the death of Mary’s father in 1689.
Blathwayt, an influential and wealthy member of William III’s civil service, Secretary at War 1683-1704 and Secretary of State 1692-1701, commissioned to build a Baroque mansion probably on the site of the former medieval manor house and filled the mansion with his collection of Dutch decorative art. He also commissioned to re-landscape the park, including the elaborate formal layout recorded in Kip’s engraving, published by Atkyns in 1712, and in Stephen Switzer’s description of 1718. This comprised an extensive water garden to the east, and terraces and a wilderness to the north. The overall design of the garden is thought to have been by George London. In 1698, a stable block with space for 26 horses, and servants’ quarters above, around a courtyard was added. The east front of 1704 was designed by William Talman, architect of Chatsworth. However, styles change, and by the late 18th century these formal garden features were no longer considered the height of fashion, the gardens were made over in the more informal style then prevalent, and many of the water features filled in. Humphrey Repton and Charles Masters laid out a new park, comprising gentle vistas and groupings of trees and shrubs.
Little appears to have been done in the 19th century. A cedar plantation features to the north- west of the mansion in a view of about 1840, while other views emphasise the mature, wooded nature of the mansion’s setting. Between 1839 and 1871, Colonel George Blathwayt seems to have been an enthusiastic planter, but the dominant parkland character derives from the remnants of the formal avenue-planting of the late 17th century, overlain with the less formal planting of the early 19th century. The estate remained in the possession of the Blathwayt family until about 1957, when it was bought by the Ministry of Works and transferred to the National Trust, in whose care it remains.
The beautiful parish church dedicated to St. Peter standing next to the mansion on a steep slope dates from 1280 and contains a Norman font and medieval features including tiles and stained glass. The three-stage tower was built about 1420, and the church was considerably enlarged and altered about 50 years later. At the east end of the south aisle is the tomb of George Wynter who died in 1581 and of his wife, Anne. On the floor of the Denys Chapel, is a brass of Sir Morys Russell in full armour, and his wife. A curious memorial of painted wood is to “Ye Rev. Mr. Mervyn PERRY, 58 years Rector of this parish, died 1753”. On one of the chancel arch pillars, is a marble tablet to the Rev. Peter GRAND (died 1792), a rector of 36 years. There is also a tablet in the vestry which records that the amount he gave away to charity greatly exceeded his stipend. He built and partly endowed a school for the parish. Most of the more elaborate memorial tablets in the church are to other rectors and members of the Blathwayt family. In the churchyard, one stone, set up in memory of Frances SAINSBURY in 1711 reads: “Thirty years and more I was a widowed wife; up to the thirtieth year I lived a wedded wife; and now, alas, no more I’m in this world of strife; I’m neither married woman nor yet a widowed wife”.
Before the Blathwayt’s time, the village of Dyrham ran along the side of the hill from the church, with an inn “The Red Lion” and some necessary tradesmen, a wheelwright, butcher and baker next door. In the 18th century the Blathwayts wanted more privacy in their pleasure gardens. The Dower House, Rectory and gardeners’ cottage stayed along the south side of what is known as Upper Street. Humbler cottages were re-sited below the Park gardens on Lower Street, where the roofs were still thatched until 1960.
Dyrham village is now a conservation area, but inevitably its appearance has changed radically since the 1960s. From being a feudal village with a resident squire, it has become largely a dormitory village, with a few of the tied cottages in old family hands. The old school-house of 1790 is virtually as it was, but there is no longer a shop or post office. Only the pubs – ‘The Bull’ in Hinton and ‘The Crown’ in Tolldown remain. In spite of the permitted infilling, however, many lovely features cannot be spoilt. The tree-topped hills of the Park, mainly oak, beech ash and sweet chestnut, the avenue of limes along the church walk, the grazing pastures for cattle and sheep, and the waterfall by the edge of and underneath village street, flowing into Boyd Brook from springs high up in the Park. Here the Blathwayts constructed a cascade reminiscent of Chatsworth, tumbling from a statue of Neptune, which is all that is left of it now.
Midway between the two villages of Dyrham and Hinton is a second school built in 1876 at the southern end of Chapel Lane by the road junction, but closed sadly in 1968. It was subsequently used as a craft centre, and now has room for community work as well as having professional ceramic tile makers and weavers at work. The Victorian village hall is nearby, to which the older villagers still walk the half mile for the doctors’ surgery, jumble sales and fairs across muddy fields or flooded roads. Traditions die hard here. There was a chapel, in the south of Hinton village, in Chapel Lane, which has since been demolished. This is perhaps unsurprising, as the return of the Religious Census of 1851 indicates it was a “Wooden Chapel” (also called “Tabernacle”), erected in 1847 for a congregation of “Independant” worshippers. It was a separate building used exclusively as a place of worship, and there was seating for 100, all of which were free. The number of worshippers on March 30th was estimated as 40 in the morning, and 80 in the evening, with the afternoon Sunday School attended by 30 pupils. The return was completed by William ANSTEE, its Sunday School teacher, whose address was “Hinton”.
Hinton village remained in the hands of Bristol Corporation until 1921, and has an equally strong feeling for tradition with the old pub, ‘The Bull’, a thriving concern. There are riding stables here, a small and excellent industry of carpentry, and many old houses too, Hinton and Ford farms, the Old Forge and Homestead to name but a few. There is a village green and a large tract of common land where cattle still graze.
In the south east of the parish, on the A46 road, Oldfield Gatehouse (now Tollgate Teashop) was built as a turnpike in 1818 for the Lambridge (near Bath), to Cirencester Turnpike Trust Road. Its purpose was to provide a more secure means by which tolls could be collected than by its predecessor which was literally a gate. William PERRY was a Turnpike Gate Keeper for a short time in around 1843. The road layout has changed over the years and the original gate was situated at the junction of Sands Hill and Middledown Lane. From the early 19th century it was called Woefield Corner. The Cirencester to Lambridge Trust was formed in 1743 and was disbanded in about 1865. There was much opposition to these turnpikes and public pressure lead to their demise. After the Turnpike Trust disbanded it was used as accommodation for farm labourers. About 1930 a couple named MORGAN rented the property and saw an opportunity to start a business. Mrs Morgan ran a bed and breakfast and cafe business, even though at that time water came from a well and there was no electricity. This was locally known as ‘Ham & Egges’.
The essential character of the parish still remains with many buildings of Cotswold stone ranging from small cottages, several of them Grade II listed, up to the National Trust’s Grade I listed mansion, situated in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The grounds of Dyrham Park are open daily, and the mansion is also open year round (https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/bath-bristol/dyrham-park). The Cotswold Way runs north-south through the parish.
Holdings at Bristol Archives for the parish of Dyrham include that the parish register dating from 1568; Bastardy papers (1817 & 1833), Churchwarden Account (1714-1854), Glebe Terrier (1704), Overseers of the Poor (1797-1848) and Vestry records (1848-1908), but Apprentice Indentures (1740-41), Map of the manor of Dyrham (1689 & 1766), Perambulation (1792), Plan of the manors of Dyrham & Hinton (1833), Settlement papers (1817-40), Tithe apportionment and map (1843), many of Blathwayt family estate papers (ref: D1779), the Hartland Collection (ref: D2663) and additional Dyrham documents (ref: D2659) are held at Gloucestershire Archives. The transcript of the Perambulation (by Elizabeth Jack) can be seen on the internet – http://www.bittonfamilies.com/dyrhamperambulation.html.
I am researching PERRY family history. I traced the lineage back to a John Perry who was born in around 1666. He married Sarah NOAD of Doynton in 1692 at Dyrham. Their three children were baptised at Dyrham. I am trying to find John’s origin. The memorial of painted wood in Dyrham Church is to “Ye Rev. Mr. Mervyn Perry, 58 years Rector of this parish, died 1753”. I wonder whether the rector was John’s brother.
Mervyn Perry married Elizabeth NOON in 1700 at St Bride, Fleet Street, in London. They had fourteen children baptised at Dyrham. He originated from Hindon, Wiltshire, where he was baptised in 1668. There is a baptism record dated 1666 of a John Perry. Both were the sons of Edward and Margaret Perry (nee MERVYN). I found no trace of John Perry’s later life in the Hindon area, so I wonder whether he was the one who moved to Dyrham to join with his brother Mervyn.