Coordinates: 51°06′29″N 2°19′09″W / 51.108°N 2.3191°W / 51.108; -2.3191
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The Palladian bridge and Pantheon
TypeHouse and garden
LocationStourton with Gasper, Wiltshire, England
Coordinates51°06′29″N 2°19′09″W / 51.108°N 2.3191°W / 51.108; -2.3191
BuiltHouse: 1721–1724, destroyed in fire, rebuilt 1906
Gardens: 1741–1780
ArchitectColen Campbell
Architectural style(s)Neo-Palladian
Governing bodyNational Trust
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameStourhead House
Designated6 January 1966
Reference no.1131104
Official nameStourhead
Designated1 September 1987
Reference no.1000471
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameThe Palladian Bridge
Designated6 January 1966
Reference no.1131099
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameThe Pantheon
Designated6 January 1966
Reference no.1131102
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameThe Temple of Apollo
Designated6 January 1966
Reference no.1131100
Stourhead is located in Wiltshire
Location of Stourhead in Wiltshire

Stourhead (/ˈstaʊərhɛd/)[1] is a 1,072-hectare (2,650-acre) estate[2] at the source of the River Stour in the southwest of the English county of Wiltshire, extending into Somerset. The estate is about 4 km (2+12 mi) northwest of the town of Mere and includes a Grade I listed 18th-century Neo-Palladian mansion, the village of Stourton, one of the most famous gardens in the English landscape garden style, farmland, and woodland. Stourhead has been part-owned by the National Trust since 1946.


The Stourton family had lived at the Stourhead estate for 500 years[3] until they sold it to Sir Thomas Meres in 1714.[4] His son, John Meres, sold it in 1717 to Henry Hoare, son of wealthy banker Sir Richard Hoare.[5] The original manor house was demolished and a new house, one of the first of its kind, was designed by Colen Campbell and built by Nathaniel Ireson between 1721 and 1725.[6]

Over the next 200 years, the Hoare family collected many heirlooms, including a large library and art collection. In 1902, the house was gutted by fire but many of the heirlooms were saved, and the house was rebuilt in a nearly identical style.[7]

The last Hoare family member to own the property, Sir Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare, gave the house and gardens to the National Trust in 1946, one year before his death. His son and sole heir, Captain Henry Colt Arthur "Harry" Hoare, of the Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry, had died of wounds received at the Battle of Mughar Ridge on 13 November 1917 during World War I.[7] The last Hoare family member to be born at the house was Edward Hoare on 11 October 1949.

The house was recorded as Grade I listed in 1966.[8]

Art collection[edit]

Henry Hoare's art collection is displayed at Stourhead; his acquisitions are featured in the Palladian mansion's 'Painted Alcove' or Italian Room. Hoare's collection includes many hand-coloured prints – in some cases, coloured with such skill that they were mistaken for oil paintings. These prints are engravings of the works of the Italian masters (for example Daniele da Volterra, and Carlo Maratta) and the hand-colouring is attributed to a "Mr. Studio", thought to be Giacomo Van Lint, the son of Flemish painter Hendrik van Lint (possibly in collaboration with his father).[9]

Other buildings[edit]

Although the main design for the estate at Stourhead was the work of Colen Campbell, other architects were involved in its evolution through the years. William Benson, Henry Hoare's brother-in-law, was in part responsible for the building of the estate in 1719.[10] Francis Cartwright, a master builder and architect, who was established as a "competent provincial designer in the Palladian manner",[11] worked on Stourhead between 1749 and 1755. Cartwright was a known carver, presumably of materials such as wood and stone, and it is assumed that his contribution to Stourhead was in this capacity. Nathaniel Ireson is the master builder credited for much of the work on the Estate: it is this work that established his career, in 1720.[12]

The original estate remained intact, though changes and additions were made over time. Henry Flitcroft built three temples and a tower on the property: the Temple of Ceres was added in 1744, followed by the Temple of Hercules in 1754 and the Temple of Apollo in 1765; that same year he designed Alfred's Tower, which was not built until 1772.[13] During the ownership of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the mason and surveyor John Carter added an ornamental cottage to the grounds (1806)[14] and the architect William Wilkins created a Grecian style lodge (1816).[14]

In 1840, over a century after the initial buildings were constructed, Charles Parker was hired by Sir Hugh Hoare to make changes to the estate. A portico was added to the main house, along with other alterations. The design of the additions was in keeping with original plans.[15]

Gardens and monuments[edit]

The lake at Stourhead is artificially created. Following a path around the lake is meant to evoke a journey similar to that of Aeneas's descent in to the underworld.[16] In addition to Greek mythology, the layout is evocative of the "genius of the place", a concept expounded by Alexander Pope. Buildings and monuments are erected in remembrance of family and local history. Henry Hoare was a collector of art; one of his pieces was Claude Lorrain's Aeneas at Delos, which is thought to have inspired the pictorial design of the gardens.[16] Passages telling of Aeneas's journey are quoted in the temples surrounding the lake.

Monuments are used to frame one another; for example the Pantheon[17] designed by Flitcroft entices the visitor over, but once reached, views from the opposite shore of the lake beckon.[18] The use of the sunken path allows the landscape to continue on into neighbouring landscapes, allowing the viewer to contemplate all the surrounding panorama. The Pantheon was thought to be the most important visual feature of the gardens. It appears in many pieces of artwork owned by Hoare, depicting Aeneas's travels.[19] The plantings in the garden were arranged in a manner that would evoke different moods, drawing visitors through realms of thought.[18] According to Henry Hoare, 'The greens should be ranged together in large masses as the shades are in painting: to contrast the dark masses with the light ones, and to relieve each dark mass itself with little sprinklings of lighter greens here and there.'[20]

The gardens were designed by Henry Hoare II and laid out between 1741 and 1780 in a classical 18th-century design set around a large lake, achieved by damming a small stream. The inspiration behind their creation were the painters Claude Lorrain, Poussin, and, in particular, Gaspard Dughet, who painted Utopian-type views of Italian landscapes. An early feature, predating the lake, is the Temple of Flora (1744–46) which now contains a replica of the Borghese Vase modelled in Coade stone dating from 1770 to 1771.[21][22] Lakeside features include the five-arched Palladian Bridge at the eastern extremity of the lake;[23] the Rockwork Bridge over the road to the south of the lake;[24] and to the west the grotto[25] and the Gothic Cottage summerhouse.[26]

Also in the garden are a number of temples inspired by scenes of the Grand Tour of Europe. On one hill overlooking the gardens stand an obelisk of 1839[27] and King Alfred's Tower, a 50-metre-tall, brick folly designed by Henry Flitcroft in 1772; on another hill the temple of Apollo[28] provides a vantage point to survey the magnificent rhododendrons, water, cascades and temples. The large medieval Bristol High Cross was moved from Bristol to the gardens.[29] The gardens are home to a large collection of trees and shrubs from around the world.

Richard Colt Hoare, the grandson of Henry Hoare II, inherited Stourhead in 1783.[7] He added the library wing to the mansion,[7] and in the garden was responsible for the building of the boathouse[30] and the removal of several features that were not in keeping with the classical and gothic styles (including a Turkish Tent). He also considerably enhanced the planting – the Temple of Apollo rises from a wooded slope that was planted in Colt Hoare's time. With the antiquarian passion of the times, he had 400 ancient burial mounds dug up to inform his pioneering History of Ancient Wiltshire.[31]

The gardens were listed Grade I on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens of special historic interest in 1987.[32]

In typography[edit]

The National Trust's corporate font, designed by Paul Barnes, is based on an inscription in the grotto, created around 1748.[33][34][35] The inscription was destroyed in error around 1960 and a replica was made from photographs.[36][37]



  1. ^ "Stourhead". Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Retrieved 11 September 2012.
  2. ^ "National Trust – Stourhead". National Trust. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
  3. ^ Dodd 1981, p. 31
  4. ^ Dodd 1981, p. 33
  5. ^ Dodd 1981, p. 34
  6. ^ Dodd 1981, p. 6
  7. ^ a b c d Dodd 1981, p. 4
  8. ^ Historic England. "Stourhead House (1131104)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  9. ^ Dodd, Dudley (September 2016). "'Mr Studio's' Hand-Coloured Prints at Stourhead". Print Quarterly. XXXIII (3).
  10. ^ Colvin 1997, p. 123
  11. ^ Colvin 1997, p. 231
  12. ^ Colvin 1997, p. 529
  13. ^ Colvin 1997, p. 368
  14. ^ a b Colvin 1997, p. 230
  15. ^ Colvin 1997, p. 1058
  16. ^ a b Bergdoll 2000, p. 77
  17. ^ Historic England. "The Pantheon (1131102)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  18. ^ a b Bergdoll 2000, p. 78
  19. ^ Woodbridge 1970, pp. 31–33
  20. ^ Woodbridge 1970, p. 31
  21. ^ "Geograph:: Temple of Flora, Stourhead Estate © David Dixon cc-by-sa/2.0".
  22. ^ Historic England. "The Temple of Flora (1318472)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  23. ^ Historic England. "The Palladian Bridge (1131099)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  24. ^ Historic England. "The Rockwork Bridge (1199172)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  25. ^ Historic England. "The Grotto and The River God's Cave (1318473)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  26. ^ Historic England. "The Gothic Cottage (1199233)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  27. ^ Historic England. "The Obelisk (1283405)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  28. ^ Historic England. "The Temple of Apollo (1131100)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  29. ^ Historic England. "The Bristol High Cross (1318471)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  30. ^ Historic England. "Rockwork Boathouse (1199203)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  31. ^ Times Literary Supplement, 12 October 2007, p. 4
  32. ^ Historic England. "Stourhead: parks and gardens (1000471)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 November 2017.
  33. ^ "New look National Trust magazine rolls out". The Drum. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  34. ^ "National Trust branding". Luke Charles. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  35. ^ National Trust Brand Standards (PDF). National Trust. 2014. pp. 30–33.
  36. ^ Barnes, Paul. "James Mosley: A Life in Objects". Eye. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  37. ^ Mosley, James (1999). The nymph and the grot: the revival of the sanserif letter. London: Friends of the St Bride Printing Library. pp. 1–19. ISBN 9780953520107.

External links[edit]