Longleat was previously an Augustinian priory. The name comes from "leat", an artificial waterway or channel such as that which supplies a watermill. Sir Charles Appleton (1515–1580) purchased Longleat for Sir John Thynn in 1541 for £53. Appleton was a builder with experience gained from working on The Old School Baltonsborough, 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. He was the first of the Thynne 'dynasty' which is still going. Sir James Thynne (1605–1670) employed Sir Christopher Wren to do modifications to the house and 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. In 1707, Thomas Thynne founded a grammar school for boys in the market town of Warminster, near to his family seat, to teach the boys of Warminster, Longbridge Deverill, and Monkton Deverill. Over time this became known as the Lord Weymouth School; in 1973 Lord Weymouth's School merged with St. Monica's School for girls and continues today as Warminster School.
To commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, a display of rare artefacts connected to the bard is on display on the first floor of Longleat House until October. “Still searching for Shakespeare” features a virtually unknown likeness of the poet created in 1704, which was derived from the famous Chandos Shakespeare which hangs in the National Gallery. Despite its age, the portrait remains in beautiful condition and provides a fascinating glimpse of the man himself. Accompanying the portrait are several exquisite items from the Longleat library including two massive volumes of Boydell’s Collection of prints, from Pictures painted for the Purpose of Illustrating the Dramatic Works of Shakespeare, by the Artists of Great Britain (1805) and the Longleat copy of the First Folio published in 1623, one of only three surviving copies remaining in private hands. The best known document in the Longleat archives, Henry Peacham’s Titus Andronicus drawing, the only surviving contemporary representation of a Shakespeare play in performance is also on display.
Access to Longleat House for visitors with limited mobility and for wheelchair users is via the rear of Longleat House. Please ask a member of staff if you would like to use the lift, which provides access to all floors. On the advice of the fire service, only three wheelchair users are allowed on any floor; so they can accommodate six wheelchairs in the House at a time. Light levels are carefully controlled within Longleat House to ensure conservation of paintings and furnishings. Assistance dogs are welcome. One carer per person is free.
Location : Longleat, Warminster, Wiltshire, BA12 7NW
Transport: Warminster (National Rail) 5 miles OR Westbury (National Rail from London) 12 miles taxis available from both. Bus Routes : No Service
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 18:00; Summer until 19:00
Tickets House + Gardens: Adults £16.65; Seniors £14.85; Children (3 - 15) £12.15.
Tel: 01985 844400