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History of Stourhead House

Two adults and a child look at the house, with its pediment supported by columns, at Stourhead, Wiltshire
Looking at the house, with its pediment supported by columns, at Stourhead, Wiltshire | © National Trust Images/Nick Daly

Stourhead House has a fascinating history dating back to the early 18th century. Discover how it came to be owned by the Hoare banking dynasty, read about the changes that have been made to the building over the years, and meet some of the people who've lived there.

Purchased by the Hoare family

In 1717, Henry Hoare I – son of Hoare's bank founder Sir Richard Hoare – purchased Stourton Manor. Once the acquisition was complete, Henry commissioned the celebrated Scottish architect Colen Campbell to replace the building that existed on the site with a new Palladian-style villa that would become known as Stourhead House.

Unfortunately, Henry died just before his new home was completed. However, his widow Jane continued to live on the estate until her death in 1741, when the couple's son, Henry Hoare II, inherited it.

Changes to the house

Henry Hoare II, also known as 'Henry the Magnificent’, made a number of changes to the house, including rebuilding the West Front to accommodate the Saloon.

Henry's love of the arts didn’t stop at architecture, and he also had a great passion for paintings and sculpture. The collection he gathered included works by famous artists such as Poussin, Rysbrack and Bampfylde.

A painting of Henry Hoare II on horseback by Michael Dahl and John Wooton, found in the Entrance Hall at Stourhead house, Wiltshire
Painting of Henry Hoare II by Michael Dahl and John Wootton | © National Trust Images/John Hammond

Adding the wings

In 1785, Sir Richard Colt Hoare (2nd Baronet) inherited Stourhead from his grandfather Henry Hoare II, on the condition that he left the family banking business and cared for the estate.

Colt Hoare made further alterations to the house, which included adding two wings to accommodate the Picture Gallery and the Library. He also commissioned Thomas Chippendale the Younger to make furniture for the house, including the Library.

The portico is built

When Colt Hoare died in 1838, the Stourhead estate was passed on to his half-brother, Sir Henry Hugh Hoare (3rd Baronet). During his three years at Stourhead, Hugh Hoare added the portico to the front of the house, as had been originally intended by Colen Campbell.

Sale of heirlooms

Due to family debts and an agricultural depression, the Hoare family were forced to sell some of their possessions in the late 19th century. Taking place in 1883, the heirlooms sale was a great loss to Stourhead's collection, with works by Turner, Poussin and Nicholson among the items that were off-loaded.

The exterior of house at Stourhead on a sunny day, showing its columns, the stairs up to the door and two wings
Stourhead House has been home to different generations of the Hoare family | © National Trust Images/Dennis Gilbert

The Stourhead fire

In 1902, a fire gutted the central part of Stourhead House, resulting in all the contents of the upper floors being lost. However, the house was reconstructed remarkably quickly, with the restoration being completed by 1907.

There was little deviation from the house's original design, with only the West Front, the Staircase Hall and the Saloon looking significantly different.

The Hoare family


Sir Richard Hoare

The son of a horse dealer, Sir Richard founded Hoare's bank in 1672. It prospered and he was knighted by Queen Anne. Sir Richard's second son, Henry Hoare I, became a partner in the bank. 

Family exploring the garden at Stourhead, Wiltshire

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