With its gorgeous columns and ashen facade, Stourhead House is one of England’s most instantly recognisable stately homes, a pioneering work of Palladian architecture that came into the possession of the National Trust at the end of the Second World War. The broader Stourhead estate is much older than though, at least seven centuries old, the ancestral home of the Barons of Stourton, but the manor house you see today was built in the 1720s and burnt down in 1901. Nonetheless, it has retained its lustre and grace and makes for a superlative day out for the whole family.
The delightful gardens are ranged around a large lake and were designed by the second owner of the new revamped estate, Henry Hoare II. The rhododendron-filled gardens themselves are a treasure trove of historical attractions, with a 1772 folly on one bank, monuments inspired by the Hoares’ travels around mainland Europe, an Iron Age fortress and the 50-foot King Alfred’s Tower that affords awe-inspiring panoramas of the Wiltshire landscape. The Temple of Apollo, modelled on Ancient Roman architecture, is perhaps the most intriguing man-made feature of the entire Stourhead estate. Richard Colt Hoare made several drastic alterations to the estate, one of them being the excavation of hundreds of ancient burial mounds for the purposes of academic research.
Stourhead has been immortalized in several media, appearing as a location in films such as Pride and Prejudice and Barry Lyndon. The house has also appeared on the front covers of CDs by critically-acclaimed British indie rock bands. During the English Civil War, Stourhead was a royalist military base and the house was badly damaged in fighting in late 1644.
Stourhead fell into the hands of the National Trust after the familial line of inheritance was broken by the death of Captain "Harry" Henry Colt Arthur Hoare due to wounds sustained fighting in the Middle East in World War I. Since then it has been in the public domain, open every day apart from on national holidays, attracting interested tourists from all over the world. It’s no wonder it’s popular, given how quintessentially English this attraction is.
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