Longleat: Lord Bath's Murals
Longleat House, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7NW
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1 review of Longleat: Lord Bath's Murals in English
This is an optional free tour available if you have a Passport or Longleat House and Grounds ticket. It’s not available every day (so you may wish to ring ahead) and you need to book on the day at the house entrance. If you have a passport you can do this tour without having your Longleat House section on the ticket clipped, so it’s OK to do them separately. Photography is not allowed, so no piccies, sorry!
The tour takes you in to parts of the house that are private and lived in. It’s quite exciting at the start to be ushered past the general crowds and through a door marked ‘Private’! Our guide also used the radio to announce our progress and knocked on doors! On my tour there were only 3 of us (there can be as many as 15 apparently). The guide was knowledgeable, lovely and approachable (something I’ve found with Longleat staff in general). The tour takes about 45 minutes, and there’s so much to see it does go very quickly!
Lord Bath (Alexander Thynn, the 7th Marquess of Bath) has collected all of his work in his murals. Even early paintings have been cut out of frames and form a collage of images in the first room you see. If you like pretty pictures then they are probably not for you. On the other hand if to you art means someone following their vision honestly and fearlessly, and revealing themselves in the process, then this is definitely art. They are also of course pretty unique and very striking. Just for anyone who hasn’t seen them on TV, the murals are heavily textured and often gaudy, sometimes sexually explicit (though we were given the option of declining a visit to the rudest room!). I found them fascinating. Some rooms have more serious themes, others are more light-hearted, including a series of rooms upstairs for his children. The guide’s favourite of these was a bathroom in lovely blues etc with lots of fish and dolphins. I rather liked an underground fantasy room with cave murals. Many of the rooms also have mirror mosaic ceilings done by a relative of Lord Bath. The Underground room had mirror stalactites.
Though the murals are of course the focus of the tour, there are other things to be seen. I’ve already mentioned the ceilings, which are fabulous. There’s also Lord Bath’s private collection of Wessex art. Sadly time means you get whisked past the pictures that crowd some walls, but I noticed a Beryl Cook. And of course there’s voyeurism… seeing the remote controls next to the well-worn sofa and the wine glass overturned on a sideboard (though I think that might be a joke…). I visited on Lord Bath’s birthday, and we actually spotted him through a window, outside in the garden. Our guide told us she’d only seen him 6 times in 5 years working there, so it was a treat for her too!
As I said, not for anyone who just wants to look at pretty pictures. Otherwise definitely worth doing.
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