The history of Stourhead

The front of Stourhead House at sunset

Stourhead was one of the first country villas to be built in the new Palladian style and was designed by Colen Campbell. Henry Hoare I unfortunately died the same year in which the house was completed.

Building the collection

Henry Hoare II (the Magnificent) made changed the house by rebuilding the west front to accommodate the Saloon. Henry II's love of the arts didn’t stop at architecture; he also had a great passion for paintings and sculpture and the collection he gathered included works by Poussin, Rysbrack and Bampfylde.

Adding the wings

Sir Richard Colt Hoare (2nd Bt) inherited Stourhead from his grandfather Henry Hoare II, on the condition that he left the banking business. Colt Hoare made further alterations to the house including adding the two wings that house the Picture Gallery and library.

The portico

Colt Hoare commissioned Thomas Chippendale the younger to provide furniture for rooms in the house including the newly built library. He left Stourhead to his half-brother Sir Henry Hugh Hoare (3rd Bt) and during his three years at Stourhead he added the portico to the house as designed by Colen Campbell.

The heirlooms sale

Due to family debts and an agricultural depression the family had to sell some possessions. The heirlooms sale took place in 1883 and was a great loss to the collection of the house. Among the items sold were works by Turner, Poussin and Nicholson.

The fire

In 1902 a fire gutted the central part of the house resulting in the loss of all the furniture on the upper floors. By 1907 the restoration of the house was complete. In 1946 Stourhead was given to the National Trust.

The garden history

'A living work of art'. That's how a magazine described Stourhead when it first opened its doors in the 1750s. This world-famous garden was designed by Henry Hoare II as a series of carefully constructed views, like scenes from a landscape painting.
Henry Hoare II built a dam to form the lake and around it he positioned classical temples, Gothic buildings and rare and exotic trees. Although the garden is something of a secluded world, there are glimpses out to the wider landscape; to an estate of working farms and ancient hamlets.
Henry Hoare II's garden was at the forefront of the 18th-century English landscape movement. For his fantastic achievement Henry was nicknamed 'the Magnificent'. Today Stourhead is essentially the same as Henry’s vision – a timeless paradise.

Hoare's Bank

The Hoare family had a successful career in banking, which enabled them to buy Stourhead. Hoare’s Bank is the last independent bank and the Hoare family is still in charge and running the bank today.