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Thursday 22 May 2014

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

Sir Richard Colt Hoare - a painting at Stourhead
Sir Richard Colt Hoare - a painting at Stourhead (2014)

Sir Richard Colt Hoare (9 December 1758 – 19 May 1838) was an antiquarian and historian and the owner of the Stourhead estate in Wiltshire.

Family background

Richard Colt Hoare was born in Barnes, Surrey, on 9 December 1758, the eldest son of Sir Richard Hoare, 1st Baronet, who had married his first cousin, Anne Hoare, the younger daughter of Henry Hoare of Stourhead, senior partner of Hoare’s Bank. Richard’s mother died when he was six months old and his father remarried. He had six children by his second wife, Frances Acland, and Richard grew up with his half-siblings in Surrey.

Hoare's Bank

Richard pursued his classical studies with a tutor whilst training for a role in the family business, Hoare’s Bank. His grandfather, known as ‘Henry the Magnificent’, gave him a house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and an allowance of £2,000 a year when he came of age.


On 18 August 1783, Richard married Hester Lyttelton, daughter of William Lyttelton of Hagley, 1st Baron Lyttelton. They had one son, Henry, on 17 September 1784, but tragically, Hester died the following year, on 22 August 1785.

Grand Tour

Shortly after the death of his wife, Richard inherited Stourhead from his grandfather, Henry Hoare, on the condition that he left the bank. Henry made this stipulation to ensure the survival of the Stourhead estate in the event that the bank should fail in the future.
Deprived of both wife and career, Richard went on a Grand Tour, and for the next six years, he travelled extensively abroad, keeping detailed diaries. These were later published in Recollections abroad: journals of tours on the continent, 1785-1791 (1815-18). He subsequently toured throughout Britain and Ireland, recording his travels with the same meticulous detail.

Richard was very interested in the history and archaeology of Wiltshire and amassed a huge collection of books and drawings. He was the author of The Ancient History of South Wiltshire (1812, 1819) and wrote the majority of The History of Modern Wiltshire (1822-44).

He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and admitted to the Society of Dilettanti in 1792. In 1825, he gave his collection of Italian topographical and historical works to the British Museum.

Richard was a keen sportsman and bought a fishing lodge in Bala in Gwynedd, Wales, in 1796. He also had a house in St James’s Square, London.


The Temple of Apollo in the gardens at Stourhead
The Temple of Apollo in the gardens at Stourhead (2014)
Richard developed the gardens at Stourhead, planting trees and collecting exotic plants, leading to his election as a member of the Linnean Society in 1812.

Finding that the house at Stourhead did not have enough room for his collections, in 1800 he added two wings, one for the Library to house his books and the other the Picture Gallery to display his paintings.1

Richard Colt Hoare in his library at Stourhead
Richard Colt Hoare in his Library at Stourhead (Photo 2014)
Patron of the arts

Chippendale chairs in the Picture Room, Stourhead
Chippendale chairs in the Picture Room, Stourhead (2014)
Between 1798 and 1820, Richard employed Thomas Chippendale the Younger to make furnishings for Stourhead to the value of around £3,500. Chippendale’s work included furniture for Richard’s two new rooms, some pieces in the Egyptian style and others in an advanced Grecian taste.

Sarcophagus planter by Chippendale in the Picture Room, Stourhead
Sarcophagus planter by Chippendale in the Picture Room, Stourhead (2014)
Richard commissioned works from the water-colourist Francis Nicholson, the portrait artist Samuel Woodforde and JMW Turner.

An unsatisfactory son

The relationship between Richard and his son Henry was very strained. Henry was devoted to a life of pleasure and his father was left to settle his debts. Henry died in 1836 leaving one daughter, Ann.

Illness and death

Richard suffered from gout and rheumatism and became increasingly deaf. He lived mainly at Stourhead with occasional visits to Bath. He died on 19 May 1838 at Stourhead and was buried at St Peter’s, Stourton. There is a marble statue to his memory in Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral (2014)

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes faith-based Regency romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

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(1) These were the only rooms to escape the fire which devastated the house at Stourhead in 1902.

Sources used include:
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)
Lomax, James, Chippendale, Thomas (bap 1718, d1779) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn May 2009, accessed 22 May 2014)

Blog update (May 2014)

Whilst researching a post on some paintings at Stourhead for my newsletter, I discovered that the painting which I had previously labelled as Hester Lyttelton, Sir Richard Colt Hoare's wife, was in fact of NOT of her at all! 
Someone had previously suggested that the painting was not of Hester, but as it was inscribed as such, I thought I was on safe ground. But no! According to the detailed description of this painting in the National Trust Collections, it was probably of Mrs John O'Neill (someone that I had never heard of before!)

Probably Mrs John O'Neill - a painting at Stourhead
Probably Mrs John O'Neill -
a painting at Stourhead (2014)

All photographs © Andrew Knowles -


  1. The portrait identified as 'Hester Lyttelton' in your article is a portrait of a different woman. These are portraits of Hester:

    Also, the painting of the library is of Wavendon, not Stourhead library. The library at Stourhead looked / looks like this:

    1. Thank you for your comments. I believe that the portrait is of Hester Lyttelton as it is on display next to that of her husband and is inscribed as such on the painting in the bottom left hand corner - I cropped the painting as there was a plant in front of it! I have added the full painting to the bottom of my blog so you can see the inscription.

      I have replaced the picture of the library which is, as you say, clearly not the current library at Stourhead, with the correct one. However, I am intrigued as to what it is of, as I believed that it was of a room at Stourhead - maybe the library before the extra wing was added? Sadly, there were no guidebooks to the house available when I visited and so I am struggling to remember what it said next to the picture. I see from a quick Google that Wavendon was another house owned by the Hoares so if it is the library there in the picture, that would explain the connection with Stourhead.
      Many thank for helping me put my blog right.
      Kind regards Rachel

    2. My apologies - it would seem that you are right after all! I have been misled by the inscription which is apparently incorrect. I would have expected a note or something next to the painting to acknowledge this as it is very misleading! The full details of the painting, which I have now moved to the bottom of the post, are here.

  2. I agree it is very misleading! But the painting, which you describe as "probably of Mrs John O'Neill" is thought to be of Hon. Henrietta Boyle, wife of John O'Neill, 1st Viscount O'Neill. Henrietta was the daughter of Susanna Hoare (and her first husband Charles Boyle, Viscount Dungarvon), daughter of Henry Hoare 'the Magnificent'. Henrietta was therefore the first cousin of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Bt.

    1. Thanks for explaining the relationship between the sitter of the painting and Sir Richard Colt Hoare. I still don't understand why it is displayed alongside that of Sir Richard as if the inscription on the painting was correct though!

  3. Dear Rachel Knowles,
    Michael Charters & I have compiled a Dictionary of Southern African Plant Names. This includes short biographies of people after whom plants have been named. The genus Hoarea (Genariaceae) was named for Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758–1838)

    In our dictionary we have over 500 biographies. Our biographies are short, so we only need 'postage stamp' size images and we can down-size the image on your website. The image is in the public domain but we always try to get permission from the owner. We are not funded by any institution so cannot pay for images. We acknowledge all sources who have helped us and if you have a specific citation you want us to use we will do so.

    We would appreciate it if you could confirm that we can use this image.

    Hugh Clarke
    Cape Town, South Africa Email: