The family home
Generations of the Hoare family have lived at, and loved Stourhead. The house in the country as an escape from London truly became their family home.
The Palladian villa at Stourhead was finished in 1725 and had taken four years to build. The land had previously been owned by the Stourton’s and Henry Hoare I pulled down the near derelict Stourton Manor to build his fashionable Palladian country house which was designed by the Scottish architect Colen Campbell.
Stourhead House has changed somewhat over the years, with different members of the family altering the appearance to suit their own tastes and fashions of the time. The additions of the wings and of the portico to the front of the house were made by Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Sir Henry Hugh Hoare during their ownership. Over the years, the shape, size and functions of the rooms have also changed for best use of the members of the family living there at the time.
Stourhead was one of the first grand Palladian-style villas to be built in England and as such it follows the correct tradition, where the carriage entrance leads to the piano nobile, or main floor, where the state rooms are arranged. Underneath in a semi-basement, lie the ‘engine rooms’ of the house – the kitchens, sculleries and offices.
The house was intended to be the main country home for Henry Hoare I ‘the Good’ and his family, but unfortunately Henry passed away the same year that the house was completed.
Henry ‘the Good’s grandson Sir Richard Colt Hoare made huge changes to the house, not only by adding the wings, but also by adding to the wonderful collection inside. He had decided that Stourhead as it currently stood was not large enough for his books and paintings, so the wings were built to house this collection and are great examples of his Regency taste.
Sir Richard Colt Hoare also employed furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale the Younger to make furniture for the newly built wings.
Great estates were hit by hard times during the agricultural depression of the late nineteenth century and Stourhead was no exception. Then owned by Sir Henry Ainslie Hoare, he had to sell some of the treasures bought and commissioned by Henry the Magnificent and Sir Richard Colt Hoare. These included paintings of Salisbury by JMW Turner, watercolours by Francis Nicholson and Colt Hoare’s unequalled library of topographical books.
The last owners of Stourhead Sir Henry and Lady Alda Hoare devoted their lives to Stourhead, and it is thanks to them that Stourhead is open to visitors today. When they inherited Stourhead it had been shut up for a number of years. They first moved into ‘the Cottage’ until the house was put back in order. They also set about clearing the gardens which had also been neglected. In 1902 a fire took hold of the recently restored house, and the family once again moved back into ‘the Cottage’ for two years.
Thanks to Henry and Alda, Stourhead once again became a family home, but they were distraught when they lost their only son Harry during the First World War. In 1946 Stourhead as we know it today was given to the National Trust to care for and look after for future generations to enjoy.
Today the main floor of the house is open for visitors to explore and discover this much loved family home.