The Hyett family have left an indelible mark on the history and landscape of Gloucestershire. They have had great influence on the Corporation of Gloucester and its civic affairs. Their legacy is also unique in the beautiful rococo garden laid out at Painswick.
According to ‘Victorian County History’ of Gloucester on the subject of topography, from 1547 until 1720, there were very few changes in the plan or extent of Gloucester. However, it is important to be aware of much earlier changes to the ground plan from the second Baron’s War, when Gloucester Castle came under attack.
Between 1251 and 1262 Gloucester was held for the King by Mathias Bezill, a French knight, who had been appointed constable of the castle. At that time, the castle garrison was relatively small. A group of barons and knights marched into Gloucester and arrested Bezill who by evading capture, retook control.
A further attempt in 1263 to evict Bezill took place when barons Roger and John de Clifford attempted a siege of the castle. The attackers managed to gain entry after four days by burning the castles main gate (facing the town). Bezill was taken to Herefordshire and imprisoned in de Clifford’s castle at Eardisley. The barons put Roger de Clifford in charge of the castle and the city. He was later visited by Prince Edward and defected back to the king’s side.
Unfortunately, de Montfort’s sons, Henry and Simon’s forces managed to gain occupation of the town. Prince Edward forced his way with troops via Castlemeads and regained Gloucester from the barons. Edward arrested the city’s officials and destroyed various parts of the town. The destruction by Edward improved the castle’s defences. He ordered the destruction of buildings in front of the castle to provide visibility of any approaching fire power. Finally, he organised a new ditch to defend the boundary of the castle.
Edward’s clearance of these areas that became known as bare lands, was then referred to as the ‘bearland’. The land east of Castle Lane, namely the ‘Bearland’ was traditionally a site of common dunghills and was used for that purpose in 1631 when the dunghill used by the Boothall Inn was required to be walled off from the roadway.
Other than the redevelopments of the prior-religious houses and their establishments, there were little notable changes to the city plan. During the seventeenth century there was some new building in the cathedral close and some improvements to the river trade at the quayside. There were, as may be expected, a number of encroachments caused by jettying and perpresture onto common soil. The city’s houses were mainly of timber frame until the mid-seventeenth century.
The earliest house of brick is that recorded to have been built by John Hanbury c1633 on the north side of Bearland. Major changes to the city came as a result the Civil War and Interregnum by removing the roadside suburbs outside the gates (241 houses were lost).
A new development was promoted by the corporation, on land within the city, north of the castle. In Marybone Park, a railed off piece of waste, between the quay and Castle Lane, was leased for building in 1644 – 1647 where new houses were built, fronting the south side of Quay Street. The largest was ‘New Bear Inn’. Another house at Bearland later became known as Marybone House, built on a plot leased in 1651 to Walter Harris, cordwainer. It was later acquired by Alderman Benjamin Hyett and was enlarged to become the Hyett residence for several generations.
Benjamin Hyett 1651-1711 was an attorney, resident in Gloucester, who took an active part in local affairs. The corporation’s lease of his house in Bearland, late in the tenure of Alderman Henry Faber was a modest house until Benjamin began its enlargement, he purchased additional land from a Charles Jones. Benjamin’s son Charles and grandson Nicholas also acquired adjoining properties.
The garden of Benjamin Hyett II, between 1738 and 1748, was laid out on land adjoining the castle, extending from Barbican Hill to the Severn. The land was held from the Crown as part of the perquisite of the constableship of Gloucester Castle granted to Charles Hyett in 1715. It was Benjamin II who, between 1738 and 48, also laid out the gardens at Painswick where Charles Hyett had built Painswick House c1735.
Benjamin Hyett (1651-1711) Alderman, Lawyer.
Charles Hyett (d 1738) of Painswick House MP for Gloucester 1722-1727
Benjamin Hyett II (1708-1762) Registered as Freeman of Gloucester 1762
Nicholas Hyett (1709-1777) JP Lawyer – brother of Benjamin, Hyett House, Westgate Street Gloucester
1765 Nicholas was granted the office of Keeper and Constable of Gloucester Castle by King George III
He created most beautiful gardens in the castle grounds. Benjamin Hyett’s garden in Marybone Park, Gloucester was an outstanding revelation of a Rococo Garden. It incorporated the first pagoda known in England. It was later obliterated by the new county gaol.
It is likely that Alderman Benjamin Hyett snr hailed from Longford Lodge, an estate inherited from the Webb family. Hyett’s have been established around the vicinity of Gloucestershire, the Forest of Dean, Herefordshire, and Oxfordshire. Their perpetual influence on the city of Gloucester remains of significant importance today. The Gloucester Hyett’s have a family vault within the precincts of the Cathedral
For details of the Painswick Rococo Garden, please see my review of the landscape and its period design, dated November 1995, Alan Shelley.
See also Painswick Rococo