The Genius of the Place

A painting of 'The Mill' attributed to Andrea Locatelli

The genius of Stourhead is the sum of all its parts in place. It’s the story of what brought it all together and the dedicated care that preserved the resulting masterpiece for over 300 years. Follow the story of how this masterpiece of innovation and beauty was created by learning to ‘consult the genius of the place in all’.

The genius of the place is no one single person, regardless of how magnificent their life may have been. It can't be discovered in any one object, no tree nor temple, no cabinet nor masterpiece. It can't be described in the words of any one story, neither the anecdotes of men nor the myths of gods.

The genius of Stourhead is an idea of perfection comprised of all these things, a vision refined and conserved over three centuries and many generations.

Stourhead’s genius is founded upon human qualities of aspiration, inspiration and creativity. It is the legacy of one extraordinary family, whose journey is marked by exceptional achievement, profound love, hard loss, and endurance. 


From humble beginnings as horse traders, an apprenticeship in goldsmithing set the Hoare family on an ambitious golden path of hard work and social aspirations. They became successful London city bankers with a burgeoning fortune which they spent on land, property and travel.


While travelling abroad the Hoares were fascinated by the fabulous works of art and architecture that they saw on their ‘Grand Tours’. The treasures that they bought show many European influences which later served as inspiration for the vision of Stourhead we know today. 


Putting his fortune and inspiration to good use, Henry Hoare II set about engineering a radical idea. By consulting the ‘genius of the place’ he took a more naturalistic approach to garden design. This set Stourhead apart in the English landscape movement, forging connections between art, literature and architecture ultimately creating the world-famous garden you see today.