Posted by: Susan Hayward
Seven miles south west of Bristol, the National Trust’s Tyntesfield stands on an elevated ridge commanding magnificent views of the North Somerset countryside to the south and across to the Bristol Channel in the west. Bought in 1844 by the merchant William Gibbs (1790-1875), the Tyntesfield estate was the country residence of the Gibbs family for 150 years. The rich Hispanic influence on the interiors, furnishings and contents of the house often comes as a surprise to visitors.
The main entrance of NT Tyntesfield ©National Trust Images/ Steve Stephens [Image 119066]
William was the second son of Antony Gibbs (1756-1815), originally a woollen merchant from Exeter. He was born in Madrid and, with his elder brother George Henry Gibbs (1785–1842), spent much of their youth working in their father’s merchant business, Antony Gibbs & Sons, in Seville and Cadiz exporting Spanish wine, fruit and other luxuries back to the UK. The Gibbs developed an extensive network of contacts across the global Spanish and Lusitanian world. Then when the Iberian trade declined, disrupted by war and revolution in Europe, the firm gradually focused its activities to emerging markets in South America as these countries gradually gained their independence.
When his elder brother died unexpectedly in 1842, William suddenly became head of the family firm. That same year, the firm’s Lima branch had signed a contract with the Peruvian government to trade in guano (nitrate-rich seabird droppings found particularly on Peru’s coastline, notably the Chincha islands). At first this seemed a risky deal, but eventually guano became a highly prized fertiliser. In 1847 the Gibbs secured a monopoly of the British trade and, by the late 1850s it was said that guano profits had made William the richest commoner in England. In the early 1860s the cash enabled William to expand and remodel the Tyntesfield estate in the neo-Gothic taste. Whilst the Gibbs exited the guano business in 1861, their web of Gibbs companies continued to extend across the global Hispanic world (and beyond) with interests that spanned banking, shipping, railways, mining and insurance.
Today Tyntesfield house is full of evidence of the Gibbs’ family links with the global Hispanic world and infused with William’s nostalgia for his youth in Andalusia. The following is just a small selection. We are here also providing here links to the catalogue in the National Trust Collection online catalogue, but please be aware that given that Tyntesfield holds the largest collection in the National Trust and documentation is still ongoing, there are a few entries that are currently under revision. At any rate, we are sure that there are many Hispanic objects yet to be identified. Specialist input to assist with more detailed description is therefore much welcomed and appreciated!
[A few specialist comments have started to be added to this post]
- William’s personal family motto appears throughout the house: “en dios mi amparo y esperanza’ – in God [I find] my refuge and hope.
©National Trust Images/ John Hammond [Image 778255]
- Miniature portraits of the family by the great Spanish miniaturist, Antonio y Haro Tomasich (1815-1891) including:
Matilda Blanche Gibbs (1817-1887), wife of William Gibbs, dated 1876 by Antonio y Haro Tomasich (1815-1891) ©National Trust Images/ John Hammond [image 127917] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 23613
Albinia Anne Gibbs (1853-1874), this poignant portrait of their third daughter was painted posthumously in 1876 by Antonio y Haro Tomasich (1815-1891) ©National Trust Images/ David Garner [image 160684] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 23614
- Below, the imposing depiction of St Lawrence with his gridiron on the main staircase has been attributed to Zurbarán by it is likely to have been the work of his colleague Juan Luis Zambrano of Cordoba (1598-1639) and dates to around 1630. It was purchased in 1853 for William Gibbs by Manuel Williams who in turn had acquired it from Don Francisco Romero Balmaseda of Seville.
[Note from Graciela Iglesias-Rogers: Manuel Williams is probably the British consul in Andalusia of the same name mentioned by Richard Roberts in his Autumn Tour in Spain in the Year 1859 (London, Saunder, Otley & Co, 1860), p. 326; Francisco Romero Balmaseda is the merchant, landowner and art collector mentioned by Felix Gonzalez de León in his Noticia Histórica y Curiosa de todos los edificios públicos, sagrados y profanos de esta muy noble, muy leal, muy heróica é invicta Ciudad de Sevilla y de muchas casas particulares (Seville: Imprenta de D. José Hidalgo y Compañía, 1844), p. 259].
©National Trust Images/ John Hammond [image 127892] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 22854
- A terracotta figure of a ‘toreador on a horse’ by José Cubero Gabardón (1818-1877); there are other three figures by the same author in the collection depicting other characters.
©National Trust Images / Susan Hayward [Image 32653] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 32653
- A walnut and chestnut parcel gilt armchair, probably Spanish, seventeenth century, although acquired in the nineteenth century. Upholstered in stamped brown leather, the cresting to the back with two gilt foliate finials, the plain arms with baluster supports on square legs joined by plain stretchers with plain paw feet.
©National Trust Images [large_10581] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 10581
- Pair [here showing one] of silver-gilt filigree incense burners (sahumadores), Ayacucho, in Peru, first half of the nineteenth century.
- The Game of Ombre , a beautifully bound volume of a privately published treatise on the 16th century Spanish card game by William Gibbs’s nephew and business partner, Henry Hucks Gibbs (1819-1907) in 1878. Henry Hucks Gibbs (Governor of the Bank of England and later Baron Aldenham) was a philologist and Spanish amateur scholar.
[Note from Graciela Iglesias-Rogers: This game is practically unknown among most people in the modern Hispanic world, but according to David Parlett’s Oxford guide to card games (Oxford: OUP, 1990), ‘Ombre’, apparently originally pronounced ‘umber’ – an anglicanization of the Spanish word Hombre (man) – originated in sixteenth-century Spain as a four-player game. By the mid-seventeenth century Spanish players were forsaking the original for a three-player adaptation called Renegado (‘traitor’) and its five-hand equivalent Cinquillo . Yet it was exactly at this moment that the game spread to France, Italy and England, doing so in its three-hand form but still under its four-hand title: ‘Ombre’. The game entered England with the returning King Charles II and the cavaliers in 1660 and thus became the greatest card game in the land until well into the early nineteenth, when it found itself whittled away by ‘Whist’ and ultimately by ‘Bridge. This privately printed treatise is categorised by Parlett as ‘the work of a lovable old eccentric’ (Parlett, 1990: 199-200)]
©National Trust Images/ John Hammond [Image 1207691] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 3143905
- A polychrome stucco and alabaster relief model of an Alhambra window, Spanish School, nineteenth century. One of four similar mounted with a mirror in a glazed gilt wood frame.
©National Trust Images / Susan Hayward [image 13690] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 13691
- A Spanish walnut, gilt wood and polychrome decorated chest, 19th century
©National Trust Images / Susan Hayward [image 21000] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 21000.1
- A View of Seville from the Guadalquivir River by Manuel Barron y Carrillo (Seville 1814 -Seville 1884), 1846
©National Trust Images/ [image cms_pcf_20898] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 20898
- Silver bowl basin with attached central llama figure, labelled ‘Ancient Peruvian or Chilean. Taken from the ruins between the town of Trajillo and its port Huauchace’.
[Note from Graciela Iglesias-Rogers: it is probably referring to the Peruvian town of Trujillo and what today is the popular vacation beach town of Huanchaco]
©National Trust Images [large_CMS_25998_1] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 25998.1
- A silver double-headed bird, hinged at the waist with a hollow interior (possibly eighteenth century). Opinion is divided on whether it is South American or Indian (South East Asian).
©National Trust Images [large_CMS_26068 (1)] National Trust online collection record (under revision): NT 26068