South-west of Bridgwater the Quantocks soon begin to show their influence on the landscape, for their far-reaching spurs and outliers break the even surface of the Sedgemoor Plain and the Parret River’s low-lying vale. Amid these foothills, whose north aspect gives them a wide outlook over Severn Sea and South Wales Coast, lies Goathurst parish, which besides its own manor, includes also that of Halswell. They were separate possessions even in Saxon and Norman times, and did not come under one ownership until the eighteenth century, when Halswell had become a residential estate of importance, and it lord added most of the Goathurst lands by purchase. For several centuries Halswell was held by a family who took their surname from it, and lived there though they were possessed of other estates. They appear to have played no recorded part in the annal of their country or of their county. They were quiet country gentry who cherished and took care of their modest possessions. Thus Robert Halswell, who died in 1570, left directions that there were to be three locks and three keys-one held by each executor-put on to “my Cofer of Evidences now being in the Parlour.” Except “one little gilte goblett,” which his wife Susan is to have, all his plate. including “my greater chain of gold,” goes to his son Nicholas, then a minor. This son afterwards became Sir Nicholas Halswell, was M.P. for Bridgwater in 1603, obtained knighthood and showed some administrative activity, as he it was who sought to assist the Laudian school of divines in their effort to impose discipline and decency in religion. And so committed to prison one “John Gilbert, alias Gogulmeie, a fanatical minister for having on a Sabbath day attempted to preach naked in the parish church of North Petherton,” which lies next to Goathurst. Sir Nicholas seems not to have increased the family fortunes, for he certainly parted with one estate· but when he died in 1633 he left Halswell to his son Hugh ‘a clergyman and prebendary of Winchester, doctor of divinity, and ‘Proctor of Oxford University in 1627, with whom the male line of Halswell ended. His daughter Jane whose son was to be her father’s eventual heir, married John Tynte of Chelvey. Tradition derived his name from a scene – at the battle of Ascalon in 1192. There a young knight showed great valour and came forth from the fight with his white apparel all stained with the blood of the Paynims he had slain. “Tinctus cruore Saraceno,” exclaimed Richard Cceur de Lion, and his words gave the family a surname and a motto! The first documentary ancestor, however, does not make his appearance until the thirteenth century, when a Tynte is found at Newland in Gloucestershire. Thence a descendant moved to Somerset, and in the parish of Wraxall, near Clevedon, the family owned “a message called Whelpes-place.” In the Exchequer Lay Subsidies, Edward III. (1327-28) we find the name of Rich􀊙rd Tynte, “franklin” (i.e., a freeholder). in Wraxall; and in the “Visitation of Somerset” in 1573, a note by the “Somerset Herald” to the Tynte arms and pedigree states that “the proof of this coate is an owlde glasse windowe (in the house at Wraxall), with the name of Tynte written under it with glasse. I took it to be more than 100 yeares owlde.” Edward Tynte of Wraxall was Sheriff of Bristol in 1548. But his son, Edmund Tynte, in his will, proved August, 1570, describes himself as “of Wraxall, yeoman,” despite his right to bear arms. He left to Edward Gorges, lord of the manor of Wraxall, “20s. to be a good friend to my wife,” and his largest legacy as one of £6 left to Dame Catherine Moyle, with the object that she should “remit all trespasses displeasures and demands as have been heretofore between us.” But if Edmund Tynte was a man of modest habit and mode of life he left three sons who all made their way in the world. Sir Robert, the youngest, got fame and fortune in Ireland, where he married the widow of Edmund Spenser, the poet. Making his will in 1646, he leaves “to my Eldest Son all my Castles,” which sounds very grand indeed, but may have amounted to little, and it is to be feared that the “£2,000 owed by the King,” which he wished to be devoted to re-edifying the ancestral house at Wraxall, never reached its destination, as Charles I. was by this time in no case to pay his depts. The eldest brother, John Tynte of Wraxall, was of the Middle Temple, and the profits of the law evidently allowed him, when he died childless in 1616, to improve the fortunes of several of his relatives, and especially of his brother Edward, to whom he leaves all his lands and leases. But meanwhile, Edward had himself improved his position and his means. He had married a daughter of the lord of the manor, now Sir Edward Gorges and head of a distinguished family who had been seated at Wraxall since the days of Henry III. And were allied to the ducal house of Norfolk, Before his brother’s death, too, Edward Tynte had acquired the manor of Chelvey, three miles south of Wraxall; but it was perhaps John’s legacy that enabled him to rebuild the house which still has his arms on the porch and, in other ways, betrays its Jacobean origin,. It was however deserted  by its builder’s grandson in favour of Halswell, so that Collinson, who published his “History of Somerset” in 1791, describes it as “a very large old structure” in which were “many good apartments well wainscoted with handsome cornices gilt and elegant ceilings; but they are all now locked up and the windows blinded: only as much of it being inhabited as is necessary for the farmer’s use who occupies it.” From this description we judge that Edward Tynte, who died in 1629 possessed of several manors and lands in half-a-dozen parishes, was better housed than was his contemporary, Sir Nicholas Halswell, whose grand-daughter was to marry Edward’s son John. The Halswell House of Sir Nicholas’s time was a modest home, some of whose old eastern gables appear in the illustrations dwarfed and overshadowed by the great Palladian block which the son of John Tynte and Jane Halswell built in 1689. Until that date Chelvey Court maintained its position as the chief seat of the family, and among the portraits above the wainscotting of the hall at Halswell may be noticed that of “Col. Jo Tynte of Chelvey.” He appears clad in armour, for he was an active fighter on the Royalist side and a cavalry commander in the Kind’s army. His name appears in the list of loyal gentlemen of large estate who were to have been made Knights of the Royal Oak had that order been instituted. Through his estate may have been large mut did not include Halswell, as his father-in-law, Dr Hugh Halswell, was yet alive when he died in 1670. He left Chelvey Court to his widow for her life and all the furniture in its “Parlour and Chamber,” together with a silver framed looking-glass, candlesticks and other articles in silver and his China dishes. This was Frances, his third wife. Jane Halswell had been the second and to her son he leave the “one knott of diamonds which was his second wife’s.” To this son Halswell was to come three years later, together with a baronetcy “in consideration of his father’s services” Sir Halswell Tynte was born in 1649, and from Oxford he went to Middle Temple; but inheriting his paternal estates on coming of age, and those of his mother’s father on the latter’s death in 1673, he found himself financially able to house himself in the contemporaries affected. His mother’s home was turned into offices, and in front of it, looking north and commanding views of the Bristol Channel, he, in 1689, placed his new building, 97ft long and 54ft high, which in its style and in its disposition is thoroughly typical of its day, and shows much good designing and expert craftmanship. Fine ashlar stone of the Ham Hill kind enters largely into its exterior composition, In exposed places the effect of the weathering and the growth of moss and lichen have given the north elevation a varied colouring in which even pink and purple play a part. But where an overhanging pediment or cornice has afforded some shelter, the stone has retained a fresh appearance, and the fine carving of the central feature of door and upper window is as crisp as on the day it was done. The arrangement of this central section is peculiar. The masonry around the doorway, without forming a porch, is brought forward, with rusticated pilasters and quarter-columns sufficiently to recess the door and to afford support to a narrow balcony on to which open the great upper room over the hall. All the work seems contemporary, though the proportions of the balcony remind one of the end of the eighteenth rather than of the end of the seventeenth century. This doorway was the main entrance in Sir Halswell’s time, such a mode of directly entering into the hall or saloon having been first introduced by Inigo jones and remaining the custom of all through the eighteenth century. Now the central room of the west side is used as the entrance hall, and occupiers of the saloon are not subject to the sudden intrusion of the northern blast whenever a visitor arrives. It is therefore a comfortable as well as dignified room. Here, in well-designed frames of the family, He himself may be seen on the extreme right of the illustration, while Sir Nicholas Halswell appears first on the opposite side. His hand is on his sword, as befits a knight, but his son, the bearded doctor divinity, is dully supplied with a folio volume. The doctor’s daughter and heiress is at the end of this side of the room, beyond her husband, the colonel. Below them the open door gives a glimpse of the staircase, which occupies the middle of the east side and has the dining-room and boudoir on wither side of it. An illustration of the mantelpiece in the latter room is given. Though attributed to Grinling Gibbons, it is really later than Sir Halswell’s time and resembles the designs in the books published by Thomas Johnson and William Halfpenny during the first half of the eighteenth century, when the extravagance of the Chinese and Louis XV, styles had superseded the reservice and balance of form and proportion with which Wren and Gibbons had disciplined the richness of their ornamentation, Such qualities as these last we get in other rooms at Halswell, and especially in the ceilings, the finest example of which is in the upstairs apartment now known as the Chintz Room.

It is perfect in both drawing and modelling. The frieze has winged cherubs and birds connected with fruit and flower garland, while shells fill the corners. Next come corner panels enframing the large central one, whose four outer semi-circles have shields in cartouches with alternate supporters of griffins and amorini. Within these, the great wreath is a wonder of finished technique, while the large plain centre comes as a relief after all this richness of decoration, and is better as it is than if it had been painted with Verrio gods and goddesses as was the case in some grander houses. Of the same character, but somewhat simpler, is the staircase ceiling. Here the Amorini-supported shields are in the cornice, whose corners are occupied by ribboned festoons, while the main wreath is of more restrained and solid modelling that that in the Chintz Room. Such treatment befits the larger and severer style of its surroundings and of the staircase itself, with its great squared and panelled newels and massive baluster rail. On the walls are the later portraits of Colonel and Mrs. Johnson who took the name of Tynte, together with that family’s inheritance, in 1785. Here, as well as these successors of the Tyntes, are also their predecessors. The children of Sir Nicholas Halswell are depicted in the costume of the day of Elizabeth, and their christening robes are still preserved, and used at the family christenings. The fine collection of pictures not only embraces many portraits if Halswells, Tyntes, Kemeyses and their relatives the Whartons, from the brush of Van Dyck, Lely and Kneller, together with one of the rare portraits by Hogarth, viz., that of Sir Charles Kemeys Tynte, but more recent ones by Gainsborough and Hoppner. Other notable portraits are those of John Hampden by Dobson, General Richard Lovelace (soldier and poet) by Van Dyck, Barbara Villiers (Duchess of Cleveland) by Lely, Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex (from Strawberry Hill), Henry Carey, Earl of Monmouth (ditto), Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, and others. The collection also contains good specimens of the works of Salvator Rosa, Teniers, Andrea del Sarto, Panini, Breughel, Ostade, Ruysdael, Hondekoeter, Willeborts and others of the foreign schools and affords much gratification to the visitors to Halswell. Passing to the dining-room we find another ceiling of great merit, but of a lighter and freer treatment, whose wreaths and scrolls savour of a somewhat later date, that of the reign of Queen Anne.  Perhaps, though the acorn sprig might well have been chosen as a motif by the son of the man who was to have belonged to the Order of the Royal Oak. The overmantel is fully in character with the ceiling and exhibits the same general character of adhesion of Christopher Wren’s models, joined to a tendency towards the Louis XV. Cross which were to follow. The portraits which this over mantel frames are those of two of Charles I’s children, Henrietta, Duchess of Orleans, and Henry, Duke of Gloucester. In the matter of furniture, as well as of fixed decorations and of pictures, the Tyntes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have left their mark as successively using the best of their time. The period of Charles II. Is well represented by the dining-room chairs, while in the salons the cabriole leg of Queen Anne’s reign is seen in sofa, chair and table, grouped with the Chinese fret which Thomas Chippendale and his contemporaries used when the eighteenth century was half through. In the library, Greenhills dignified portrait of Charles II. Is fittingly framed, while the Oriental China over the bookcases shops that in matters of details Halswell is equipped in a manner worth of its age and of its worth.

Sir Halswell Tynte passed away in 1702, and his son John, whose chief act was that he added to his dominions, reigned in the stead. He married the heiress of Sir Charles Kemeys, and thus brough into the family that charming Glamorganshire sear which will be the “Country Home” of next week. Having done that, and become the father of three sons, Sir John Tynte’s career was over, for he died, at the age of twenty-seven, in 1710, the year of the birth of his youngest son, who was eventually to be the best known, but the last of the male line of Tynte to hold Halswell. For thirty years, however, after his father’s death his elder brothers were in possession. Halswell, the eldest, died childless in 1730 at the age of twenty-five, while the next brother, John, who had gone into the church, and held the rectory of Goathurst, survived for another decade, but never married. Charles, the youngest, was thirty years of age when he succeeded to Halswell and Chelvey in 1740, Cefn Mably coming to him seven years later on the death of his mother, the Kemeys heiress. For forty-five years did Sir Charles Kemeys Tynte hold his Somerset estates, and take a leading part in Somerset affairs, representing the county in many Parliaments. Beyond some additional furniture and pictures, Halswell House needed little enlargement or embellishment at Sir Charles’s hands; but the lie of the land around it was peculiarly fitted for treatment in the landscape manner which William Kent introduced and Launcelot Brown developed, and we are therefore not surprised that when Arthur Young visited the place he declared that “what chiefly attracts the notice and attention of strangers are the decorated grounds.” All the old views of Halswell make a small thing of the house and give prominence to the round temple—after the manner of the one at Duncombe—which surmounts the spur on the east of the house and rakes the wide prospect of sea and land to the north. This temple survives, and to do some remnants of grotto work in the water dip below. But when Sir Charles’s landscape efforts were completed, they were almost as extensive as Lord Littleton’s at Hagley, where the “Hermitage made of roots of trees,” the “Castle made as ruinous,” the “urn to Mr. Pope” and the seat “adorned with bones and embellished with a motto made of snail shells,” titillated Bishop Pococke’s emotions and roused his enthusiasm in 1751. At Halswell there was the sae elaborate scheme to stir the whole range of human feeling. Here are “clumps and scattered trees of uncommon elegance,” through which, at one point, a “temple dedicated to Robin Hood shows to advantage,” while at another is seen the “vast vale of rich enclosures spotted in a beautiful manner with white objects.” There is a “druid’s temple built, in just stile, of bark, etc., the view quite gloomy,” and having silent waters that “hurt not the emotions.” Where the rotunda and the Ionic portico combine with “a lawn gently waved and spotted with trees and shrubs in the happiest taste” the effect is “viant and bear the stamp of pleasure.” But where beyond the cascade, the stream passes under the venerable trees “the awful shade, the solemn stillness of the scene, broken by nothing but the fall of distant waters have together a great effect and impress melancholy upon the mind.” The strain of such spirit-stirring surroundings does not seem to have prematurely worn out wither Sir Charles or his wife. He lived on at Halswell until 1785, and then left it to his widow, who was still in possession in Collinson’s time and in his plate of Halswell it is described as “the seat of Lady Tynte,” Sir John’s three sons in succession had held the estates and the baronetcy, but all were childless, and Sir Charles had to look to the descendants of his only sister for an ultimate heir. Jane Tynte had married Major Hassell of the Royal Horse Guards in 1737, and by him had had an only daughter, who became the wife of Colonel Johnson of the First Foot Guard in 1765. They took the name of Kemeys-Tynte after Sir Charles’s death and to their direct descendant does this delightful place still belong, Mr. Charles Kemeys-Tynte was born in 1876 and in 1899 succeeded his father and married a daughter of General Sir Arthur Ellis. They are most appreciative owners of their choice inheritance, and the ordering of Halswell to-day is distinguished by intelligent taste and informed Judgement.



No responses yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Comments

No comments to show.