This was built during the 1740s. An inventory of 1746, listing the furniture of its Great Room (six Windsor chairs, one large Windsor chair with four seats, prints of Shakespeare, Milton, Swift), shows it to have been in use by then. Its interior decoration was as elaborate as the exterior, its ceiling and walls covered with an intricate papier maché design, for which the original architect's sketch exists. A 19th-century description records mirrors at either end of the Great Room, so that 'the company when seated appears almost endless in length.' Here the family and their guests would come for picnic meals, perhaps laid out as a surprise feast to be discovered in the course of a long tour of the grounds. Afterwards they might refresh themselves with music, or stroll on the lawn around the building, enjoying the view of the lake and the grand panorama beyond.
The architect for most of the buildings at Gibside was Daniel Garrett, a former assistant of Lord Burlington's who developed a thriving practice in the North, which he handed on, in about 1753, to Paine. Garrett had a particular gift for Gothick design, a decorative style inspired by what was then taken to be the native British architecture, but which had not at that time acquired the scholarly character of the later Gothic Revival. The Banqueting House, with its bowed front and soaring pinnacles, is one of the most extraordinary, and brilliant, buildings of the style.
George Bowes was an extremely talented man who, besides being a successful landowner and coal-owner, a keen sportsman and a Whig MP, almost certainly planned the alterations to the landscape at Gibside himself. He was one of those, like John Aislabie at Studley Royal in Yorkshire, who under the influence of designers such as Stephen Switzer, broke away from the intricate formal designs of parks and gardens popular in the 17th century, to favour a more natural scheme, in which the whole estate, with its abundant woods and hills, fast flowing river and rich pattern of cultivated fields, was brought into relationship with the old house at its centre, to create an ideal world in miniature. There is still a formal framework of avenues and vistas, and a geometrically shaped lake, but between there are irregular woodland plantations, encircling rides and walks that follow a meandering course, with frequent surprise views of the countryside and, of course, of the carefully sited buildings which play so important a part within it.
George Bowes' daughter married the Earl of Strathmore, whose family name then became Bowes-Lyon, and whose descendants still own most of Gibside. The house fell empty before 1900, however, and was dismantled in 1920. Later, the park was leased to the Forestry Commission. The Banqueting House began to disappear beneath the undergrowth, and its roof fell in. Fortunately several people took photographs of it before this happened.
New hope arose for Gibside as a whole when in 1965 the chapel and the avenue were given by the 16th Earl to the National Trust, which has therefore been able to reinstate two of the most important elements in the gardens. Then, in 1977, the Landmark Trust, a charity which specialises in the rescue and reinvigoration of buildings at risk, offered to take on The Banqueting House, to restore it and pay for its future upkeep by letting it for holidays. The Forestry Commission generously gave up their lease of the building, so that in 1981 the Strathmore estate was able to sell Landmark the freehold.
For a short history of The Banqueting House please click here.
To read the full history album for The Banqueting House please click here.
To download the children's Explorer pack for The Banqueting House please click here.