The Gibbs family was well established in Devonshire during the 15th century. They were squires before they were merchants and they were merchants before they were bankers. Wool and cloth, wine and fruit, guano and nitrate of soda; trade drove them from Exeter to Madrid, from Malaga to Peru. But by 1843, when William Gibbs (1790-1875) settled on an estate near Bristol, the family's image as landowners and bankers was set firm.
The Victorian epoch brought rewards to those who had passion, commitment and a hard work ethic and great wealth came to William through the banking business of Antony Gibbs & Sons.
William was Tory in politics, Anglican in religion and Gothic in taste, hence the building of Tyntesfield. Originally called Tyntes Place, the house was small and gabled, but set in glorious country.
William Gibbs made improvements, initially employing Thomas Foster and Alexander Roos and later John Norton to supervise a dramatic Gothic reconstruction. Sir Arthur Bloomfield was called in to design a chapel, from the outside at least an echo of La Sainte Chapelle in Paris. William married Matilda Blanche (1817-1887), a distant cousin of his uncle Crawley, and together they were quietly philanthropic giving large sums to numerous charities.
Antony (1841-1907), William's eldest son was to continue the architectural improvements, employing Henry Woodyer to make the house more comfortable with the installation of electricity and warm-air heating and the addition of panelling, bay windows and a romantic verandah.
Antony, as an aesthete and craftsman, was unsuited to the bank. His life was that of a country squire, traveller, collector and philanthropist. He shopped at international exhibitions and salerooms and pursued his antiquarian interests.
Antony Gibbs was succeeded by his eldest son, George Abraham (1873-1931). Educated at Eton and Christ Church, he enjoyed an illustrious army career before entering Parliament as Conservative member for West Bristol in 1906 (see the commemorative entrée dishes, lots 68 and 72). With Via (1880-1920), his first wife, he embarked on a program of care, conservation and maintenance of Tyntesfield. The only major change of style they made was the introduction of Renaissance fireplaces as a riposte to the all-pervading Gothic.
Raised to the peerage in 1928, George Abraham Gibbs' private life was not without tragedy, two sons died in infancy and his wife died aged forty in 1920. Seven years later he re-married, taking as his second wife the Hon. Ursula Lawley (1888-1979), maid of honour to Queen Mary and daughter of Lord Wenlock. She and her eldest son Richard, 2nd Baron Wraxall (1928-2001) loved and cared for the house through the second half of the twentieth century.
Little changed until the death of Lord Wraxall last year when Christie's was chosen to appraise the historic art collection at Tyntesfield and advise on its future. The family and the Executors are delighted that the house and the majority of the contents now have a secure future within the care of the National Trust.