Locations of visitors to this page

pulled down 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. For the next 200 years the Hoare family collected many heirlooms, this including a large library and art collection. In 1902 the house was devastated by fire. Nonetheless, many heirlooms were saved and the house rebuilt in a near identical style. Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare, the last of the family to own the property, gave Stourhead house and gardens to the National Trust in 1946, just a year before his death. His only son and heir, Captain "Harry" Henry Colt Arthur Hoare, of the Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry, had died of wounds received at the Battle of Mughar Ridge during World War I on 13th November 1917. He is commemorated by a plaque in the Memorial Hall at Stourhead. The last Hoare family member born inside the house was Edward Hoare on 11 October 1949.


Stourhead estate covers 1,072 hectares (2,650 acres) and sits at the source of the River Stour near Mere in the south of the county. The estate boasts a Palladian[1] mansion, the village of Stourton, gardens, farmland, and woodland. It has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1946.

The Stourton family – Barons of Stourton – resided at Stourhead for around 500 years, until sold to Sir Thomas Meres in 1714. His son, John Meres, sold it on to Henry Hoare I, the son of wealthy banker Sir Richard Hoare in 1717. The original manor house was

Although Colen Campbell was responsible for the main design of the estate at Stourhead, other architects were involved in its development over the years. William Benson – Henry Hoare's brother-in-law – was partly responsible for the building of the estate in 1719. Francis Cartwright, a master builder and architect, was recognized as a ‘competent provincial designer in the Palladian manner.’ He worked on Stourhead from 1749 to 1755. Cartwright was an acknowledged carver of materials such as wood and stone and his involvement with Stourhead would have been in this capacity.

Nathaniel Ireson is the master builder credited for much of the work on the Estate. It is this that established his career, in 1720. The original estate stayed intact, although changes and additions were made over the years.

Henry Flitcroft built a tower and three temples on the property. The Temple of Ceres was the first to be added in 1744, followed by the Temple of Hercules in 1754 and the Temple of Apollo in 1765. King Alfred's Tower was designed the same year, but not built until 1772.

John Carter, mason and surveyor, was responsible for added an ornamental cottage to the grounds in 1806 at the request of Sir Richard Colt Hoare and the architect William Wilkins created a Grecian style lodge in 1816 for Sir R. Colt Hoare.

In 1840, more than century after the original buildings were built, Sir Hugh Hoare commissioned Charles Parker to make changes to the estate. A portico was added to the main house, plus other alterations. All the additions were in keeping with original plans.


51.1061° N, 2.3178° W

Stourhear, Coordinates

Stourhead’s lake is artificially created. This was achieved by damming a small stream. Following the path around the lake is meant to suggest a journey similar to that of Aeneas's[2] descent into the underworld. In addition to Greek mythology, the layout is evocative of the ‘genius of the place’, a concept made famous by Alexander Pope[3].

Henry Hoare was an art collector. One of the pieces he owned was Nicolas Poussin's Aeneas at Delos, which is considered to have inspired the pictorial design of the gardens. 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 designed by Flitcroft draws the visitor to it, but once reached, views from the opposite shore of the lake beckon. The use of the sunken path allows the landscape to continue on into neighbouring landscapes, allowing the viewer to deliberate the surrounding views. 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. The flora contained within the garden were arranged so to bring to mind different moods. 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.'


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, as said before, 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.

Included in the garden are a number of temples inspired by scenes of the Grand Tour of Europe. On one hill overlooking the gardens there stands an obelisk and King Alfred's Tower, a 50-metre-tall, brick folly designed by Henry Flitcroft in 1772; on another hill the temple of Apollo 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.

Amongst the hills surrounding the site there are also two Iron Age hill forts: Whitesheet Hill and Park Hill Camp. 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. He added the library wing to the mansion, and in the garden was responsible for the building of the boathouse 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.

Extracted and partially rewritten from the Wikipedia, Stourhead article.


[1] Palladian architecture is a European style of architecture derived from and inspired by the designs of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580)

[2] Aeneas – A Trojan hero. The son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Venus (Aphrodite).

[3] Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. Famous for his use of the heroic couplet, he is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson.


~ 24 views around Stourhead gardens ~