"Stourhead - one of the great gardens of England" Stourton by iandsmith

Stourton Travel Guide: 22 reviews and 48 photos

The house of Hoares

I was actually unaware there was even a house here, so transfixed had I been with the photos of the garden; yet it deserves recognition in its own right.
In 1717 Henry Hoare I, the son of Sir Richard Hoare, founder of England's only surviving family bank, purchased the manor of Stourton.
Just three years earlier it had passed from the hands of the Catholic Stourton family who had lived there 700 years.
Henry Hoare I immediately demolished the existing house and employed Colen Campbell to build its replacement. Campbell was a leader of the fashionable neo-classical revival and Stourhead, as Hoare named his new home, was one of the first Palladian houses to be built in England.
The square main block has a pedimented portico to the east, rising to the height of the building. It is flanked by pavilions added in the 1790s to house a library and picture gallery. The rather severe lines of the facade are softened by three lead statues above the portico and the two flights of stairs rising to the entrance. Their end pillars support stone basins surmounted by the Hoare eagle.
I, for one, had no trouble imagining a carriage and fours clopping up the pathway to be attended to by the manservant at the main entrance. A style of living to which I am sure I could have become accustomed.
The contents of the house are a rich collection of heirlooms and items reflecting the interests of the Hoare family over several generations.
Works by Canaletto, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Poussin can be viewed inside (no photography please), amongst the 482 available paintings.
The furniture includes good examples from Georgian to Regency but the work of Thomas Chippendale the younger from 1795 to 1820 is outstanding. The work he produced for the library and picture gallery is celebrated. There are also pieces brought to Stourhead in the 19th century from Wavedon, the Hoare's family house in Buckinghamshire.
Henry Hoare II embellished his father's new house with paintings, sculpture and 'objets d'art'. This collection was greatly extended by his nephew Sir Richard Colt Hoare who inherited the house in 1785. Colt Hoare was a distinguished scholar, eminent antiquary and county historian.
He amassed a magnificent library in one of his purpose built extensions. This green and white library is one of the finest surviving Regency rooms in England, with over 5,000 volumes (no T.V., what else could you do) stored in the shelves.
The best of his grandfather's art collection together with his own acquisitions of works by Italian and British contemporaries were housed in the other pavilion. However, many of the best paintings were sold in the 19th century.
The inside is somewhat unique though inasmuch as all the contents of the house were once family possessions.
For over 200 years the Hoare family lived here, enjoying the fruits of their labours and those of their servants, but, I digress, I came here to see the garden.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Fabulous garden, wonderful architecture, good art
  • Cons:Haze
  • In a nutshell:A must-see in Great Britain, especially spring and autumn
  • Last visit to Stourton: Oct 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (5)

Comments (2)

  • londonlover's Profile Photo
    Feb 25, 2007 at 11:00 AM

    Great info on Stourhead--thanks! I'm thinking of going here in September, and your page increasd my eagerness to see it. Did you eat at the Spread Eagle Inn?

  • aussiedoug's Profile Photo
    Dec 13, 2005 at 3:26 AM

    Interesting as usual Ian. How did this recent triip stack against la bella Italia? Buona sera mio amico.


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