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. The house was designed by Colen Campbell but Henry Hoare I unfortunately died the same year in which the house was completed.

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Henry Hoare II (the Magnificent) made changes to the house by rebuilding the west front to accommodate the Saloon. Henry's love of the arts didn’t stop at architecture; he also had a great passion for paintings and sculpture, 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 two wings for the Picture Gallery and library.

The portico

Colt Hoare commissioned Thomas Chippendale the younger to provide furniture for the house including the newly built library. Colt Hoare 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 orignially 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 it 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 and 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 as well as 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.
The 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.