Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth

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The Viscount Weymouth
Weymouthlord.jpg
President of the Board of Trade
In office
8 January 1702 1705

Longleat House and the Thynnes

A View of Longleat, Jan Siberechts, 1675 Siberechts-ViewovLongleat.jpg
A View of Longleat, Jan Siberechts, 1675

Longleat was purchased by Sir John Thynn in 1541. He was the first of the Thynne 'dynasty' - the family name was Thynn or Thynne in the 16th century, later Thynne only, but Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath, who died in 2020, reverted to the spelling Thynn in the 1980s so that it would be clear how to pronounce it. "Obituary: The Marquess of Bath". BBC News. 2020. He also changed his surname to Thynn, which was the historical spelling of his family name. He did so in order to stop the drift in its pronunciation and to ensure people knew it rhymed with 'pin' instead of 'pine'.

Sir John Thynne (1515–1580) purchased Longleat which was previously an Augustinian priory. He was a builder with experience gained from working on Syon House, Bedwyn Broil and Somerset House. In April 1567 the original house caught fire and burnt down. A replacement house was effectively completed by 1580. Adrian Gaunt, Alan Maynard, Robert Smythson, the Earl of Hertford and Humpfrey Lovell all contributed to the new building but most of the design was Sir John's work.

Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth (1640–1714) started the house's large book collection. Formal gardens, canals, fountains and parterres were created by George London with sculptures by Arnold Quellin and Chevalier David. The Best Gallery, Long Gallery, Old Library and Chapel were all added due to Wren. What changed most of all, were the general surroundings to the house, for Thomas was impassioned by the idea of gardens, and inspired in particular by Versailles. He employed George London to lay out a vast complex of ornate terraced flower beds, with symmetrical paths and avenues, to furnish Longleat with a decorative environment, which stretched for the most part eastwards, across the leat (having diverted 'the long lete' with a canal), and on up into what is now the safari park. The whole family, when gathered, took much delight in the home-grown fruit to be harvested at Longleat.

The house is still used as the private residence of the Thynn family. The Viscountcy of Weymouth has been held by the Marquesses of Bath since 18 Jun 1789. Alexander Thynn, 7th Marquess of Bath (1932-2020) was an artist and mural painter with a penchant for mazes and labyrinths (he created the hedge maze, the love labyrinth, the sun maze, the lunar labyrinth and King Arthur's maze on the property).

Bishop Ken, lodger

Thomas Ken, Bishop of Bath and Wells, when deprived of his see by William and Mary in 1691 after he refused to transfer his oath of allegiance from James, on the grounds that once given, it could not be forsworn, was given lodgings at Longleat and an £80 annuity by the 1st Viscount Weymouth, a friend since Oxford days.

Taking up residence on the top floor at Longleat for a period of some twenty years, he exerted a profound influence upon Thomas, becoming what some might describe as his conscience. Thomas thus acquired a reputation for good deeds, which he himself regarded as spontaneous enough, but which the friends of his youth were inclined to regard as having been inspired by his devout friend, the Bishop. And as an example of such benevolence, somewhere between the two of them, they founded the Lord Weymouth School, now Warminster School. Notable too is the fact that a portion of the West Wing was transformed into a chapel for the household's daily worship. Not that its interior ever matched the architectural finery of equivalent chapels in other stately homes, but it was in any case evidence of the devout spirit which prevailed at Longleat over that particular historical period.

While living in the house, Bishop Ken wrote many of his famous hymns, including 'Awake my soul', and, when he died in 1711, bequeathed his extensive library to the 1st Viscount.

Irish estates

Thomas Thynne gained land in Northern Ireland following the division of land in 1692 which came out of an agreement between the heirs of the two daughters of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex. Earl Ferrers, the grandson of Lady Dorothy inherited her share, and Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth succeeded to the inheritance of Lady Frances Devereux, the Earl's elder daughter, later Marchioness of Hertford and Duchess of Somerset. This division was uneven, and in Lord Weymouth's favour. Lord Weymouth, however, behaved generously in order to rectify this injustice to Ferrers.

In his "Longleat: the Story of an English Country House" (London, 1978), David Burnett records (somewhat improbably, but on the evidence of the Bath estate archive): '... In 1694 a Polish baron had written to Thomas Thynne, 1st Viscount Weymouth asking if he could lease 4,000 acres (16 km2) and the Irish estate town of Carrickmacross in order to settle 200 Protestant families from Silesia. Thomas consented, but the agreement was cancelled when the baron announced his intention to demolish the town and rebuild it in the Polish style."

Thomas Thynne sent his Irish agent instructions for building the Viscount Weymouth Grammar School, Carrickmacross. "I intend the school house shall be slated and made a convenient house, which will draw scholars and benefit the town; therefore the timber must be oak." But Thomas was an absentee landlord, and ten years elapsed before he discovered that his agent has embezzled the building fund and repaired an existing building. The school was eventually built, and its syllabus included "Oratory, Virtue, Surveying [and] Antiquities". The stern language of its ninth statute stated: "The master shall make diligent enquiry after such as shall break, cut or deface or anywise abuse the desks, forms, walls or windows of this school, and shall always inflict open punishment on all such offenders". Unlike Warminster School this school closed in 1955.

The 1st Viscount Weymouth died in 1714, without surviving male issue, and bequeathed his estates to his grand-nephew, also named Thomas Thynne, and ancestor of the Marquesses of Bath. Robert Shirley, 1st Earl Ferrers died in 1717, his estate, by agreement, devolving in equal parts to his four sons: Robert, George, Sewallis and John Shirley. Of these, only George survived and, as the others had died without issue, the whole estate passed to him. He was the grandfather of the Shirley brothers, Horatio Henry and Evelyn Philip, the 19th-century owners of the western moiety of Farney. The Shirleys were absentees, spending most of their time at Ettington in Warwickshire. In c.1750, they built a house near Carrickmacross for their occasional visits. It was not until 1826 that Robert's grandson, Evelyn John Shirley, laid the foundations of a mansion worthy of the family and estate near the banks of Lough Fea.

Family

Thynne married before 1672 Frances Finch, daughter of Heneage Finch, 3rd Earl of Winchilsea, and they had:

However, none of the children outlived their parents.

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References

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Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs

Parliament of England
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Oxford University
1674–1679
With: Laurence Hyde
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Tamworth
1679–1681
With: John Swinfen 1679, 1681–1685
Sir Andrew Hacket 1679–1681
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President of the Board of Trade
1702–1707
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by High Steward of Sutton Coldfield
1679–1714
Succeeded by
Preceded by Custos Rotulorum of Wiltshire
1683–1688
Succeeded by
Preceded by Custos Rotulorum of Wiltshire
1690–1706
Succeeded by
Preceded by Custos Rotulorum of Wiltshire
1711–1714
Succeeded by
Peerage of England
New creation Viscount Weymouth
1682–1714
Succeeded by
Baron Thynne
1680–1714
Baronetage of England
Preceded by Baronet
(of Cause Castle)
1680–1714
Succeeded by