A Brief History of Longleat
In case you didn’t know, we are the official accommodation for Longleat so if you are looking for places to stay near Longleat that are suitable for all the family, you’re in the right place. We certainly know a thing or two about the house and safari park, so keep reading for insider-knowledge on the ins-and-outs of the famous estate.
Name and Origins
You might be surprised to learn that Longleat was previously an Augustinian priory and the name actually comes from “leat” which means an artificial waterway or channel.
The property was purchased by Sir John Thynn in 1541 for only £53! Sir John was the first of the Thynn dynasty with family descendants to follow him and gain ownership of the great estate.
Did you know that the current seat to Longleat is the Marquess of Bath? If that surprised you keep reading for plenty more of that.
As well as the Safari Park, Longleat House is home to a few of its own surprises too. Aside from its own rich history it’s also been the host location for a variety of film and TV productions including Bollywood film ‘Mohabbatein’ and many more.
When it was first opened Longleat was the first safari park outside of Africa, originally home to just Lions but it now hosts a whole variety of animals including Koalas, Giraffes, Meerkats and more.
How It Came To Be
In 1964 Henry Thynn, the then current owner, met with Jimmy Chipperfield to go ahead with their plans to build a safari park in the house’s grounds. Naturally, these plans to construct the first drive-through safari outside of Africa and invite animals that hadn’t previously touched British soil were met with a fair amount of concern. Resistance was met especially with those from the local Frome Planning Committee who took their concerns to the Government.
However, with carefully thought out safety measures put in place, the plans went ahead and Longleat Safari Park welcomed their first Lion in February 1966 with many more to follow the next month. The Lions of Longleat opened to the public on Tuesday 5th April 1966 and it cost a mere pound to drive through and admire the fascinating species – the first experience of its kind within Europe.
Then and Now
The beautiful Longleat house is situated on 1,000 acres of land near the towns of Warminster, in Wiltshire and Frome but what we see today certainly isn’t what we would have seen many years ago. The original house was burnt and destroyed during a fire in April 1567 but fortunately a replacement house was completed 13 years later.
A variety of different nobles inherited the estate as the years progressed, each making different improvements or changes in the overall upkeep of the house. The 1st Viscount Weymouth, Thomas Thynne, created the large book collection in the house. He also commissioned help to create the formal gardens, fountains, and canals.
The future heirs made their imprint by doing things like modernising the land to mirror other famous landscapes, add extra entrance roads and building different buildings outside of the property such as the Orangery.
Longleat had an important role to play in acting as a temporary hospital to help care for soldiers and later to become a female Royal School and of course now it remains a stately home open for the public to discover, explore and admire.
Today, there are 9,000 acres owned by the Longleat estate, in which 500 animals roam in a safe and humane environment.
We are one of the most welcoming pubs in Wiltshire – why not stop by for a bite to eat, a drink or a place to rest your head? We have a special Longleat Experience package available. Find out more here.