New Inn, Stowe: Englands first garden attraction?

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What is possibly one of the first inns to serve a great garden of 18th-century England has reopened its doors after a 156-year absence.

The New Inn at Stowe originally opened in the early 1700s as a coaching inn for visitors who flocked from across the country to see the magnificent gardens and needed somewhere to stay. 

It is, we believe, the first inn of its type. This makes it possibly England’s first tourist hotel.

The heyday of landscape gardens

The trend for educated visitors to tour England for pleasure became a firmly established fashionable activity during the 18th century.

Initially, senior members of the domestic staff showed tourists around when the family was away, expecting a tip in return.

At the time, the gardens were being developed into a magnificent showpiece by Lord Cobham. He inherited the Stowe estate in 1697, and it was his idea to offer accommodation alongside a public hostelry for local people. Work on New Inn began around 1717.

The fashion for visiting gardens and landscapes soon extended beyond Stowe.  Tourists started touring the estates of Kedleston, Stourhead, Blickling and Holkham, where inns were also set up. All followed the model of New Inn at Stowe.

An era of decline

But, during the middle of the century, the typical rural inn declined rapidly. By 1851 New Inn had ceased trading.

The 20th century was not kind to the building. Photographs from 1946 onwards show a steady decline in the condition of the inn. By 2004, New Inn was a derelict ruin.

Since buying New Inn in 2005, we've invested £9 million in transforming the gardens and buildings to recapture the same views and thrills that 18th-century visitors would have enjoyed at one of England’s greatest landscape gardens.