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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Stourhead – a Regency History guide

The Palladian mansion at Stourhead
The Palladian mansion at Stourhead
Where is it?

Stourhead is a Palladian mansion with beautifully landscaped gardens situated near Mere in Wiltshire.

History

The Stourton estate was bought by the banker, Henry Hoare, in 1717. He replaced the existing manor house with a Palladian mansion and christened it Stourhead. His son, also called Henry Hoare, was responsible for landscaping the gardens.

The Stone Bridge, Stourhead
The Stone Bridge, Stourhead
In 1902, the central section of the house was completely gutted by fire and Sir Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare oversaw its restoration. In 1946, after his only son was killed in the war, Sir Henry gave Stourhead to the National Trust in order to keep the estate intact.

Georgian connections

Henry Hoare I (1677-1725)

Henry Hoare was a partner in Hoare’s Bank, which his father, Sir Richard Hoare, had founded in 1672. He bought Stourton manor in 1717 and replaced the existing building with a Palladian mansion designed by Colen Campbell which he renamed Stourhead.

The front of the Palladian mansion at Stourhead
The front of the Palladian mansion at Stourhead
Henry married his cousin Jane and had 11 children. His two surviving sons, Henry and Richard, succeeded him in the bank. He increased his wealth by successful speculation, especially in South Sea Company stock.

Henry was known for his philanthropy to the poor which gained him the nickname ‘Good Henry’.

Henry Hoare II (1705-1785)

Henry’s eldest son, also called Henry, inherited the estate in 1725, just after the house was completed. He became a partner in Hoare’s bank in the same year, at the age of 19, a position he held for the rest of his life. Henry was MP for Salisbury (1734-41).

In 1726, Henry married Anne Masham but she died a year later leaving a daughter who did not live to adulthood. He remarried in 1728 and had five children with his second wife, Susan Colt. Sadly, two of his three sons died in infanthood and the other in his early twenties. His younger daughter Anne married her first cousin, Richard Hoare, but also died young. Their son, Richard Colt Hoare, inherited his grandfather’s estate.

The lake, Stourhead
The lake, Stourhead
After the death of his second wife, Henry devoted himself to Stourhead. He dammed the River Stour to create an ornamental lake and commissioned Henry Flitcroft to design buildings around it – the classical temples of Flora (1745) and Apollo (1765) and the Pantheon (1753-4). The sculptor John Michael Rysbrack worked at Stourhead and his Hercules (1756) is in the Pantheon. Other features added include the Stone Bridge, a cascade, the Grotto and the Hermit’s Cave. When they were finished, the gardens attracted numerous visitors and were widely admired.

Temple of Flora, Stourhead
Temple of Flora, Stourhead
Henry was a prolific collector and acquired many works of art which he displayed at Stourhead. He gained the nickname ‘Henry the Magnificent’.

Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Baronet (1758-1838)

Richard Colt Hoare married Hester Lyttelton in 1783 and they had a son, Henry, the following year. In August 1785, Hester died. The following month, Henry’s grandfather died and he inherited the Stourhead estate on condition that he left the bank. Deprived of both wife and career, Richard went on a Grand Tour over the next six years, keeping detailed diaries of his travels.

The Library, Stourhead
The Library, Stourhead
Richard returned home and spent the next forty years developing the house and gardens at Stourhead. He was a keen antiquarian and spent many years researching the history of Wiltshire, amassing a huge collection of books and drawings. He also collected many works of art and he added two wings to Stourhead to hold his collections – the Library at one end and the Picture Gallery at the other. Thomas Chippendale the Younger made furniture for these and other rooms at Stourhead. These were the only rooms to escape the fire of 1902.

The Library, Stourhead
The Library, Stourhead
What can you see today?

• The Palladian exterior of Stourhead designed by Colen Campbell

The Palladian exterior of Stourhead

• A Canaletto (under cover in the library)

• Library steps by Thomas Chippendale the Younger

Library steps made by Thomas Chippendale the Younger

• Wedgwood pots on the mantelpiece in the Picture Room

Wedgwood pots on the mantelpiece in the Picture Room, Stourhead

• Sarcophagus-shaped planters in the Picture Room

Sarcophagus-shaped planters in the Picture Room

• Stripy sofa by Thomas Chippendale the Younger

Stripy sofa by Thomas Chippendale the Younger

• Landscaped gardens centred around an ornamental lake with a stone bridge (see above)
 
• Ornamental buildings around the lake designed by Henry Flitcroft – the Temples of Flora and Apollo and the Pantheon.

The newly restored Pantheon at Stourhead
The newly restored Pantheon at Stourhead
Inside the Pantheon during renovation work 2014
Inside the Pantheon during renovation work in 2014
(I thought it looked like a Dr Who set!)
The Pantheon statues at Stourhead restored (2015)
The Pantheon statues at Stourhead restored (2015)
 • The Grotto beside the lake with its statue of the River God

View over the lake from the Grotto, Stourhead
View over the lake from the Grotto, Stourhead
Inside the Grotto, Stourhead
Inside the Grotto, Stourhead
 • The Gothic Cottage

The Gothic Cottage, Stourhead

Last visited: September 2015.

Sources used include:
Hutchings, Victoria, Hoare, Henry (1677-1725) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn May 2009; accessed 15 May 2014)
Hutchings, Victoria, Hoare, Henry (1705-1785) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn May 2009; accessed 15 May 2014)
Hutchings, Victoria, Hoare, Sir Richard Colt (1758-1838) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn May 2009; accessed 15 May 2014)

Hoare’s Bank website
National Trust Stourhead website

More of Andrew's photographs of Stourhead here.

2 comments:

  1. Stour head gardens are a favourite place of mine. Beautiful and peaceful. I didn't know the history of the house, thanks for an interesting post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The gardens are amazing. I look forward to going back when the work on the Pantheon is finished.

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