King Alfred's Tower
This triangular tower, two miles north-west of the garden, was designed by Henry Filtcroft for Stourhead's second owner, Sir Henry Hoare II.
The tower is named after King Alfred who raised his standard here in 879. The tower commemorates the accession of George III in 1760 and the end of the Seven Years War.
Whitesheet Hill is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest.
It offers some fantastic views, with Stourhead House and King Alfred's Tower to the west, and Blackmore Vale to the south-east.
Whitesheet is also home to diverse wildlife, including orchids and butterflies.
Six Wells Bottom
The streams which feed the garden start here. From the dam, you can look east into this open valley which once formed part of an enclosed, medieval deer park.
St Peter's Pump was erected in the valley in 1768 over the first springs of the Stour. The pump formerly stood near St Peter's Church in Bristol.
Turner's Paddock waterwheel
The current waterwheel dates from the 19th century. It provided water to Stourton parish until the 1950s, pumping it up from Turner's Paddock lake.
A watermill was recorded on the same site in the Doomsday book.
Turner's paddock is named after the landscape artist JMW Turner, who painted this spot in 1799.
The parkland spans three sides of the Palladian villa. The area behind the house is called Great Oar Meadow.
This unimproved hay meadow has had no fertilisers added for 14 years and is now a habitat for rare native orchids and other flora.
Within the meadow you can also see the Obelisk, first built in 1746.
The tenant farms
There are four working tenant farms on the estate. Each of our long term tenant farmers manages approximately 500 acres using a mix of arable and livestock grazing.
Three of the four farms operate within the government’s stewardship (HLS) scheme which promotes conservation in farmland.
The work of our rangers includes:
- Water quality testing across the property and estate
- Liaising with and assisting our tenant farmers
- Protecting and conserving our archaeology
- Improving and managing our environmental practices
- Wildlife protection and encouragement e.g. tree sparrows and dormice
- Managing the wild deer herd on the estate
- Leading visitor walks through the estate and countryside
- Forestry work and tree surveying
Whitesheet Hill - why is it so special?
The chalk grassland of Whitesheet Hill is one of the country’s best examples of unimproved pasture. For centuries this land has been undisturbed by ploughing and has remained free from chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
Today we continue to look after this designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. The area is rich in pre-history, with 11 scheduled ancient monuments.
The archaeological wonders of Whitesheet
Whitesheet Hill is archaeologically diverse, with a Neolithic enclosure dating from approximately 3,000 BC, an Iron Age hillfort and Bronze Age barrows covering the graves of wealthy people from 3,200-4,200 years ago.
Evidence suggests that pre-historic farmers met at the causewayed enclosure for markets, fairs or religious ceremonies. The hillfort is believed to have been a defensive structure.
Our management of Whitesheet Hill today
Whitesheet is a rich habitat for many species of wildlife. However the chalk grassland would quickly revert to coarse grass, scrub and trees if we did not carefully manage the site.
Working closely with local farmers, we have developed a flexible grazing regime to help maintain this valuable chalk grassland. We monitor the plant and animal species to ensure that diversity of wildlife is protected.
We have a fantastic team of volunteer rangers who help manage Stourhead's 2,650 acres of countryside. They have worked on everything from new pathways to wildlife conservation.
Email us about volunteering at Stourhead.
How you can help us
- Dogs are welcome on the estate but take care around grazing livestock
- Please clear up your dog’s mess on paths or in well trodden areas
- Please keep to permissive footpaths when crossing working farmland
- Where safe, avoid walking on well trodden areas, to minimise erosion
- Leave gates as you find them or follow instructions on signs
- Please park in designated areas, and avoid parking on verges