A LIVING MEMORIAL

Lime trees planted at Dyrham Park to mark the anniversaries of the deaths of two significant figures from the estate’s past...

TWO lime trees have been planted in the grounds of Dyrham Park to mark the anniversaries of the deaths of two significant figures from the estate’s past.

They are William Blathwayt, the civil servant and politician who established the War Office as a department of the British Government and also played an important part in administering the colonies of North America, and his descendant Henry Wynter Blathwayt, who was killed in action during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.

The young trees are cuttings from those planted on the estate around 1700, a date that saw a remarkable transformation to the estate and the great house.

This marks 300 years since the death of William Blathwayt in 1717 and 100 years since the death of William’s descendant Henry Wynter Blathwayt in 1917.

William was the man who created the house of Dyrham Park that remains today. He was born in 1649 and was one of the most effective government administrators of the late 17th century, favoured by a series of monarchs, most notably the joint monarchs William and Mary.

From the relatively humble beginnings of a job at the English embassy in The Hague in 1668, William worked his way up the ranks to become a clerk to the Privy Council, during which time he became a key figure in the administration of the American colonies. By 1683, he had risen to become Secretary at War under James II.

Even the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the deposing of James II couldn’t halt his meteoric rise, as Blathwayt’s competence and ability to speak Dutch meant he was soon rehired by the new monarch, William III.

He acquired Dyrham Park estate after marrying heiress Mary Wynter in 1686. They laid out ambitious new gardens and created the baroque mansion that stands today.

Major Henry William Wynter Blathwayt was born in 1877 and died in 1917 aged just 40.

He was a career soldier whose two sons, Christopher and Justin, later became important in the inheritance of Dyrham Park and its eventual transfer to the National Trust.

Henry was killed at the Battle of Cambrai in the First World War in 1917.

His colonel described him as: “a most kindly, chivalrous gentlemen, who had no thought for self or for his own advancement, but desired only to pull his weight – his full weight, to help to win the war.”

The Dyrham Collection contains his war medals, dog tags and letters about his death to his widow Elizabeth. They had two sons and a daughter who was only six months old when he died.

Dale Dennehy, Dyrham Park’s garden and park manager, said: “This is a poignant reminder of the people who created and shaped the Dyrham Park we all know and love. Without them we wouldn’t have this house, this garden and this parkland.

“William created the current Dyrham Park and must have been an incredible person to have achieved so much both in his work and in his home and garden.

“Henry was a brave soldier who fought selflessly for his country and died in battle very young leaving three small children. These trees will help us to keep these great historical figures in our minds and we hope they thrive, grow and live on for many years to come.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.