A photo of Longleat House that I took in 2006
Whilst I am not going to delve too deeply into the history of Longleat itself, I should just give a brief outline of how it all started.
The history of Longleat begins in the 13th century, when the Black Canons of the Order of St Augustine owned a priory on the site. They ran into financial problems and the Benedictines sold the priory to the Carthusian monks of Hinton Charterhouse in 1530. In 1541, following Henry VIII dissolution of the monasteries, Sir John Thynne acquired the land for the sum of £53, at the remarkable age of 25. He lived there until it was burnt down in 1567. He spent twelve years supervising the construction of the magnificent house which has been home to his family ever since.
In the 18th century, renowned landscape gardener Capability Brown set to work laying out the gardens, orangery and terraces. His extravagant genius is still evident in the gardens today.
The sixth Marques of Bath opened the doors of his historic home to the public in 1949. As working class culture boomed in the 1960s, the fortunes of England's upper classes began to wane. Maintenance costs were sky-high and the nobility had to find new ways to fund their extravagant lifestyles. In 1964 a company called Minirail approached Lord Bath, with the idea of running a narrow gauge railway within the grounds of the stately home. Minirail had been based at Severn Beach where they ran a railway, this area was prone to flooding and after the 3rd flood, they decided to relocate to Longleat. A 10 year lease was agreed and in early 1965 the trackbed was being put down and by Easter 1965, the railway began running. In 1966 Lord Bath joined forces with Jimmy Chipperfield and opened the worlds first safari park outside Africa.