Half way up Bowden Hill between Bowood and Lacock Abbey, stood Spye Park House, the seat of the Bayntuns.
think Spye Park is one of the prettiest places in the world, or in
all events it has more natural beauty than most. In every description
the views are so varied and the grounds so picturesque. The park is
very large and one could wander about for many hours admiring and
Park, the seat of generations of the Bayntun family and was situated
about two miles to the north of Bromham village and close to the great
Roman road from London to Bath.
To the south-east was the bold plateau called Roundaway Hill, with its commanding encampment on the summit, a range of lofty chalk-hills extended thence for several miles and to the east, on the southern face of which was the White Horse of Cherhill, and above it, another encampment called Oldbury Castle.
At the extremity of the park, towards the west, the grounds sloped gradually to the River Avon and its fertile meadows to the old gatehouse called Spye Arch, where a very extensive tract of country unfolded. Whilst the plantations of Bowden Park and the venerable Abbey of Lacock attract the eye near the foreground, the lofty free-stone hills around Bath could be seen in the middle distance and a large tract of Gloucestershire was obscured, extending to the north-east whilst the more picturesque and romantic features of Somersetshire were beheld, stretching to the horizon, in the west and south-western directions.
The sketch (above) shows the house as it was in 1684, with a partially sunken storey at ground level, a principal storey or first floor with nine large windows and steps leading up to the main entrance. The second floor had a range of nine smaller windows and there were two gables with windows in the attic. On the left hand side and four dormer windows equally spread across the roof space to the right.
30 years earlier, John Evelyn mentions in his famous Diaries that he visited the house on the 19th July 1654 before it was completed. He says of his visit: "We went to Sir Edward Bayntun's at Spye Park, north of Bromham village, a place capable of being made a noble seat. But the humorous old Knight has built a long single house of two low stories on the precipice of an incomparable prospect and landing on a bowling green in the park. The house is like a long barn and has not a window on the prospect side".
This cannot be seen from the sketch (above) but there is no doubt the drawing has been carried out exactly as John Evelyn described it in regard to the front of the house. The two stories referred to were those above ground.
was here the Bayntun family moved to, following the destruction of
during the Civil War in 1645 and quite possibly first lived in the
small house, or hunting lodge (pictured at the bottom of the above
illustration) called Spye Park Lodge, while waiting for
the mansion to be completed. By 1654 Sir Edward Bayntun (1593 - 1657)
had finished building a large house which was decorated with carved
masonry taken from the ruins of the famous Bromham House, which at
the time, was used as a quarry. He had also added some very rich furniture.
new house was enclosed by a high wall and the arched gateway of the
17th century, almost directly opposite the main entrance. The steps
from the main doorway at the front of the house led down onto a superb
enclosed bowling green. Above the sketch Dingley has drawn the combined
Bayntun/Thynne coat of arms. Sir Edward Bayntun, whom Evelyn visited,
was at the time married to Stuarta, the daughter of Sir Thomas Thynne,
whose brother resided at Longleat.
From the sketch, there appeared to be hedging rather than a wall at the back of the house and to the right there was a Pavilion or Summer House which was built incorporating part of the wall which seems to imply that the beauties of nature were not entirely neglected.
The stables also appear to have chimneys and it is thought that these stables could perhaps have been an original house. Another theory is that Sir Edward Bayntun had them built at the same time as the main house as offices.
original house had windows on the side next to the park and there may
very well have been a practical reason why there were no windows on
the prospect side. In those days, people were far less fond of exposed
situations and therefore it was very likely the windows were put on
the side least exposed to the wind.
Park House was often let to others, not necessarily connected to the
family, when the head of the household chose to live elsewhere. They
also had houses at Bath, Bathampton and Notton and most likely a town
house in London as well.
This included a magnificent triangular shaped concrete structure at roof level with eight concrete pillars towering above the entrance (pictured above). The alteration was carried out by Edward Bayntun Rolt, the son of the above mentioned Anne Bayntun and heir to the Bayntun estate. The main entrance to the house, or doorway retained the same, or nearly the same, position as in the original structure.
But this transformation
into a Georgian manor was not just restricted to the outside of the
building. Sir Edward also added a fine upstairs drawing room with a
marvelous view on the south or prospect side of the house. This will
be remembered as 'the handsomest room in the house' and projected
from the old part of the mansion. It was later discovered that part
of the walls for this extension were built from fragments which were
definitely brought from the ruins of Bromham House.
There was a fireplace in the south wall of the old building with a moulding of late Perpendicular character. This was on the second floor or above the sunken storey.
During the time of Sir Edward Bayntun Rolt, the park's venerable forest-like trees were sacredly preserved from the axe, but after his death in 1800, his son Sir Andrew Bayntun Rolt was criticised for removing a large amount of trees surrounding the mansion. The house stood upon lofty ground near the southwest extremity of the park and commanded great views of one of the best wooded areas in the county.
In 1812, Spye Park was rented to Colonel Thornton, of Lincoln's Inn, Middlesex, a gentleman much noted in the annals of sporting and racing. The lease was for 21 years, if Sir Andrew should live so long, and included the mansion, with a mill, a herd of deer and lands, at an annual rent of £750.
The new tenant wanted to replace the Bayntun portraits in the house with those of his own. He had an immense number of sporting and other valuable paintings of his own, together with a collection of rare and exotic plants and the lands were stocked with three wagon loads of bald-faced and other red deer, roebucks, Asiatic deer and partly-coloured fallow deer.
Some time after 1816, Dr. John Starky, husband of Maria Barbara, the daughter of Sir Andrew Bayntun Rolt, added some more rooms to the house and pulled down the small detached building, floored with marble, shown at the bottom of Thomas Dingley's sketch (pictured above), marked 'A Private Room in the Garden'.
1833 Charlotte Wyndham, the wife of John Edward Andrew Bayntun Starky
Maria Barbara's son and Lord of the Manor of Bromham described
Spye Park in one of her letters as: "One of the prettiest places
in the world, or in all events it has more natural beauty than most.
The views are so varied and the grounds so picturesque. The park is
very large and one could wander about for hours admiring and exploring".
But in 1864 John Bayntun Starky heir to the Bayntuns and the last Lord of the Manor of Bromham to live at Spye Park House had debts so bad, his creditors foreclosed on him and all his estates were sold, including Spye Park House and the Abbey of Stanley.
His stud was sold
at Spye Park and his estates were sold the following year. Derry Hill
and Bromham portions were sold for £175,000 to Lord Landsdowne
and Mr Goldney and the Spye Park Estate was bought for £100,000
by Major John W.G. Spicer (1817-1883), an army officer whose investment
in a Brewery had made his fortune.
This confirms that the ruins of Bromham House were used as a quarry and had been incorporated into the building of Spye Park by Sir Edward Bayntun in 1654 and again in 1749 by Sir Edward Bayntun Rolt for his alterations. Pictured (above) are some of the carved stones found during the demolition at Spye Park by the Spicers.
Talbot said, at the time, there was little in its appearance at first sight to make a visitor suppose that it could be of any antiquity, although what he saw left no doubt on his mind that this was the house which John Evelyn visited and described.
Talbot had another theory, that perhaps Spye Park was older than 17th century and more probably of the time of Henry VIII. This of course is contrary to Evelyn's assertion that it was built in 1654, but it often happens that a person is described as the builder of a house, who in reality only altered it. However one thing is certain Spye Park was built from materials salvaged from the ruins of Bromham House and this would indicate that Evelyn's account would be more accurate.
There was also a small house, or hunting lodge there originally this is shown at the bottom of Dingley's sketch (see illustration at top of page). This appears to have been the principal family residence of the Bayntun family after the fire at Bromham House while they waited for the completion of Spye Park. Talbot was convinced that this small house or hunting lodge was there long before the main Spye Park mansion was built and before Bromham House was destroyed.
show the house from two further angles, before the fire in 1970 (above)
and afterwards in 1976 (below). These photos were
kindly supplied by Frank Lane.
Middle Lodge (pictured above) is a modest two-storey brick cottage, most likely dating from the latter part of the 19th century. It was constructed to house an estate labourer and his family and is located on the main entrance road from Spye Arch to where Spye Park House stood. The name Middle Lodge is derived from the fact that the cottage was situated approximately mid-way between the main house and Spye Arch. (The above photo was also kindly supplied by Frank Lane, whose great-grandfather, John Thomas Smith, was an employee of the estate and a resident there, at Middle Lodge, in the period 1903 to 1928).
There is no trace of the great Spye Park mansion today even the foundations have been covered over with grass as if there had been no house there for 100 years or more.
The Spicers decided to tear down the ruin as it was riddled with dry rot, which was worsened by the drenching which the house received from the firemen's hoses. It would have been more romantic to have left the ruin standing, gradually fading away over hundreds of years.