I last did a small post on Gibside back in 2013, that no-one just about has seen. Sophie and I did visit in 2016 but the 365 back then got in the way of me doing a Fraggle Report that time. Anyhoo, in November gone, we went looking for autumn, the best time to visit there.
The History Bit ☕️🍪
Gibside, a country estate, set amongst the peaks and slopes of the Derwent Valley. Previously owned by the Bowes- Lyon family. It is now a National Trust property. The main house on the estate is now a shell, although the property is most famous for its chapel. The stables, walled garden and Banqueting House are also intact. It is also the childhood home of Mary Bowes, Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne (24 February 1749 – 28 April 1800), known as “The Unhappy Countess”, who was an 18th-century British heiress, notorious for her licentious lifestyle, who was married at one time the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. She and the Earl are ancestors of Queen Elizabeth 2nd. We’ll get to Mary in part 2.
The Gibside Estate was aquired by the Blakiston Family through marriage around 1540, and Sir William Blakiston (1562–1641) (Willy 1) replaced the old house with a spacious mansion between 1603 and 1620. Jumping forward to 1693, Sir William’s great-granddaughter, Elizabeth Blakiston, married Sir William Bowes (Willy 2) (1657–1707) and as a result the Gibside property came into the possession of the Bowes family in 1713. The joined forces of the two influential families and the aquisition of Gibside gave the Bowes family an even greater influence in the north of the county and a share in the immense wealth that was to be acquired from the coal trade. The Blakiston estate included some of the area’s richest coal seams.
After Willy 2 came George, who inherited the estate in 1722. Dad to Mary, the “Bowes heiress” who married John Lyon, the 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. John had to change his surname to Bowes due to a provision in her father’s will that any suitor had to take the family name. This was a device to continue the Bowes lineage in the absence of a male heir. The estate remained in the Bowes and Bowes-Lyon family until the 20th century. In the 18th and 19th centuries though they carried out many improvements including landscaping, Gibside Chapel, built between 1760 and 1812, the Banqueting House, a column of Liberty,a substantial stable block, an avenue of oaks and several hundred acres of forest. The top floor of the main house was remodelled as a giant parapet and the building was also extended to the side.
Following the death of John Bowes (the 10th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne) in 1820, it belonged to his legitimated son, yet another John Bowes 🙄 until his death in 1885 (he is buried in the Gibside chapel), when under an established trust, it reverted to his cousin Claude the the 13th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne. It had been the main residence of John Bowes’ mother, Mary Milner, by then Dowager Countess of Strathmore, and her second husband, the politician, Sir William Hutt, (who had been John Bowes’ tutor), until the latter’s death in 1882, which was the last time it was permanently occupied by the family.
I’ll be using photos from across the 3 visits, as we didn’t do everything everytime.
The mausoleum chapel at the south end of the ‘Grand Walk’ was built following the death of George Bowes owner of the estate, in 1760. The Greek Palladian-style building was designed by James Paine for Lord Strathmore, who had inherited the estate. George Bowes was finally interred in the mausoleum on its completion in 1812. The building is Grade 1 listed on the National Heritage List for England.
The Banqueting House is an 18th Century gothic folly, built 1751 by Daniel Garrett for George Bowes. Restored in 1980 by Charlewood, Curry ,Wilson and Atkinson and is now a holiday home you can rent from the Landmark Trust, so you can’t go in it unless you book a ticket for one of their public heritage days, hopefully we’ll do that this September. Of course if you have £900 and 3 people to share it with you can have a 3 night stay there. It sits atop a small hill with views over the Derwent Valley, and there’s an octagonal pond at the bottom of the hill.
The ‘Column of Liberty’ was commissioned by Sir George Bowes and begun in the 1750s. It reflected his politics as he was a Whig – a liberal political party in the UK which in the 1680s and the 1850s contested power with their rivals, the Tories -(Conservative Party). Set at the top of a steep hillock, the monument itself is a Doric order column, and topped by a standing bronze female figure, originally gilded, carrying a cap of liberty on a pole.
You can see it for miles and here it is, very tiny, seen from the far end of the avenue of oaks known as the Grand Walk.
Hope you’re not seeing it on a phone screen 🤣
A bit closer then..
And then we’re right there..
That will do for today and next time we’ll have a look at the Countess Mary Bowes’ life and times, and see the main house and the orangery.