Walk through Longleat’s history

NINE new sculptures and installations around the grounds of historic Longleat House follow five centuries of the estate’s working history, and introduce visitors to some of the people who worked there.

The outdoor exhibition, Tales of the Garden, includes sculptures of workers and animals that were part of the grounds and gardens. Longleat has been home to the Thynn (or Thynne) family, later the Marquesses of Bath, since Elizabethan times, and is also home to what is believed to be the world’s first safari park.

The artworks were created using a range of materials and were inspired by images taken from Longleat’s archives. With the nine different installations around the formal gardens and historic Stable Yard, visitors can find out about the landscape architects and garden designers who contributed to the design of the landscape and the gardens through the centuries. They include George London, ‘Capability’ Brown, Humphry Repton, Russell Page and Graham Burgess.

Other sculptures mark the visit of King George III in 1789, who reputedly planted an oak which is still standing today, and pay tribute to the family’s beloved pets over the years or showcase real figures from Longleat’s past.

Some are inspired by images taken from Longleat’s archives, including the estate’s head gardener in 1902 and members of the Thynne family playing with a pond yacht in the fountain from Christmas 1926.

The artworks have been created by Charlotte Austen, Rebecca McDonald, Penny Spedding and their teams, using a wide range of materials such as jesmonite, steel, wool, wood, wire, ink, fabric, pigment and gold leaf.

Others show how animal collecting goes back further than the opening of the drive-through Safari Park in 1966. There is evidence of kangaroos kept at Longleat as far back as the 18th century, stories of the troublesome peacocks and pheasants who roamed free in the Secret Garden in the 1960s and even the king penguins who liked to walk in the gardens.

The exhibition will run until 12th September.

Pictured: Longleat Head Gardener Jules Curtis next to a statue of his predecessor from 1902; Charlotte Austen puts the finishing touches to a sculpture beside the fountain at Longleat based on a Thynne family photograph from 1926; a new horse sculpture in the stable block; Head Gardener William Taylor with a young John Alexander Thynne c1902.