A classical journey through the Stourhead Garden

Henry Hoare II’s ambition was to make Stourhead an unsurpassable place. This saw the installation of spectacular garden features, from a medieval cross and classical temples to a cosy cottage and modern ice house. In his own words, 'those are the fruits of industry and application to business and shows what great things may be done by it....'

    The Temple of Flora

    The Temple of Flora is nestled amongst trees and shrubs; a true representation of the goddess of flowers and spring

    Dedicated to the Roman goddess of flowers and spring, this temple was the first garden building erected by Henry Hoare II between 1744 and 1746. Over the doorway the Latin inscription reads ‘Keep away, anyone profane, keep away’. Henry asks you to enter his garden in the right spirit.

    The Grotto

    The water nymph statue in an alcove of the Grotto, at Stourhead in Wiltshire

    Grottos were popular in Italian Renaissance gardens as places of retreat from summer heat. In the summer of 1762 Henry recorded his enjoyment, cooling off here. Stourhead’s Grotto is a circular, domed chamber built to resemble a cave.

    The Pantheon

    The Pantheon at Stourhead is a focal point in the garden, highlighting its classical influences

    Inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, this structure was built in 1753-54. It's the largest garden building at Stourhead. ‘Pantheon’ means a temple sacred to all the gods. The temple is filled with statues of classical deities, including a marble Hercules created by Rysbrack.

    The dam and cascade

    The sound of water flowing down the cascade is a beautiful feature of the garden at Stourhead

    Despite its natural appearance, the garden lake was artificially created with an earth dam, built around 1754. The cascade was added in 1766 as a decorative way to carry surplus water from the main lake down to the lower pond in Turner’s Paddock.

    The Palladian Bridge

    The Palladian Bridge, near the entrance to the garden, is a key feature in the iconic views across Stourhead

    Inspired by the work of 16th-century architect Palladio, this five-arched stone bridge was built in 1762. Although ornamental, the bridge was intended to look practical. It was designed to create the illusion that a river flows through the village and under the bridge.

    Rock arch

    The Rock Arch is a fantastic structure at Stourhead, often missed by visitors to the garden

    The arch was built in 1762. It was possibly inspired by Poussin’s painting - The Choice of Hercules, which hangs in the picture gallery. In this painting, Hercules ponders which path to take - the uphill path of virtue or the path of vice. Henry Hoare II may be asking us to make a similar choice - take the steep route over the arch or to pass beneath it.

    The Bristol Cross

    The cross provides a stunning vertical accent in the views at Stourhead

    Originally sited in Bristol, this restored medieval monument was brought to Stourhead by Henry Hoare II in 1765, using six wagons pulled by oxen. It depicts medieval English kings and queens in intricate stonework.

    The Temple of Apollo

    The iconic Temple of Apollo at Stourhead is certainly worth the uphill walk to see it

    This circular temple was built in 1765, by the architect Henry Flitcroft, to outdo William Chamber’s earlier Temple of the Sun at Kew. It is dedicated to Apollo, the sun god. Nestled on a hilltop, the temple has delightful views over the lake.

    The Gothic Cottage

    Henry Hoare II may have been influenced by Horace Walpole

    Also known as Watch Cottage, this was originally a rustic building. The Gothic seat and porch were added by Richard Colt Hoare in 1806. 'Gothick' features were popular additions to functional buildings during this period.

    The Ice House

    The Ice House at Stourhead is one of the lesser known curiosities in the garden

    This structure, built around 1800, was brought to Stourhead by Henry Hoare II. It provided ice and cold desserts for guests throughout the year. Ice was hacked from the frozen lake, cut into pieces and packed inside between layers of straw. Ice could be preserved for up to two years.