Stourhead & stunning gardens
The Stourton estate was bought in 1717 by Henry Hoare, who commissioned Colen Campbell to build a new villa in the Palladian style. Hoare’s heir, another Henry, returned from his Grand Tour in 1741 with his head full of paintings of Claude and Poussin, and determined to translate their images of well-ordered, wistful classicism into real life. Since that time the garden was transformed into a breathtaking work of art. Henry created the lake as the centerpiece of the garden, surrounding it with rare trees and plants, and Neo-Classical Italianate temples, mystical grottoes, ornate follies, and bridges.
If you lucky enough to visit Stourhead, be sure to see:
- Stourhead’s famous lake was created by damming the River Stour in 1750s. The path around it evokes the journey of Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid. A walk of 3km ( 2 miles ) around the lake provides artistically contrived vistas.
- Gothic cottage ( 1806)
- The Grotto is an artificial cave with a pool and a life-size statue of the guardian of the River Stour, sculpted by John Cheere in 1748.
- Modelled on the Pantheon in Rome, elegant temple was built as a visual center point for the garden.
- Stourehead House, reconstructed after a fire in 1902, contains fine Chippendale furniture. The art Collection reflects Henry Hoare’s Classical tastes and includes The Choice of Hercules ( 1637).
- The Regency Library at Stourhead with a lunette window by Francis Eginton.
- Pelargonium House contains a collection of over 100 species of the pelargonium plant and its cultivars.
- Stourton Village was incorporated into Hoare’s overall design.
- The parish church of St. Peter contains monuments to the Hoare family.
- The Temple of Flora (1744) is dedicated to the Roman goddess of flowers.
- Temple of Apollo was dedicated to the sun god and inspired by Italian originals.
Stourhead is beautiful all year around, but in spring, the rhododendrons, and in autumn, the vibrant colours of the trees, make for exceptional photos. The view from the Temple of Apollo is particularly attractive.