Stourhead is a 2,650 acre (11 km²) estate at the source of the River Stour near Mere, Wiltshire, England. The estate includes a Palladian mansion, the village of Stourton, gardens, farmland, and woodland. Stourhead has been in the ownership of the National Trust since 1946.
The Stourton family had lived in the Stourhead estate for 700 years when they sold it to Henry Hoare I, son of wealthy banker Sir Richard Hoare in 1717. The original manor house was demolished and a new house, one of the first of its kind, was designed by Colen Campbell and built by Nathaniel Ireson between 1720 and 1724. Over the next 200 years the Hoare family collected many heirlooms, including a large library and art collection. In 1901 the house was gutted by fire. However, many of the heirlooms were saved, and the house rebuilt in a near identical style. The last Hoare family member to own the property, Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare, gave the Stourhead house and gardens to the National Trust in 1946, one year before his death. His sole heir and son, Captain “Harry” Henry Colt Arthur Hoare, of the Queen”s Own Dorset Yeomanry, had died of wounds received at the Battle of Mughar Ridge on 13 November 1917 in World War I. Captain “Harry” Hoare is commemorated by a plaque on the Memorial Hall at Stourhead. The last Hoare family member to be born inside the house is Edward Hoare on 11 October 1949.
The gardens were designed by Henry Hoare II and laid out between 1741 and 1780 in a classical 18th-century design set around a large lake, achieved by damming a small stream. The inspiration behind their creation were the painters Claude Lorrain, Poussin and, in particular, Gaspar Dughet, who painted Utopian-type views of Italian landscapes. It is similar in style to the landscape gardens at Stowe
Included in the garden are a number of temples designed to show off the Hoare family”s education and wealth. On one hill overlooking the gardens there stands an obelisk and King Alfred”s Tower (a 50-metre-tall, brick folly designed by Henry Flitcroft in 1772); on another hill the temple of Apollo provides a vantage point to survey the magnificent rhododendrons, water, cascades and temples. Amongst the woodland surrounding the site there are also two Iron Age hill forts: Whitesheet Hill and Park Hill Camp. The gardens are home to a large collection of trees and shrubs from around the world.
Richard Colt Hoare, the grandson of Henry Hoare II, inherited Stourhead in 1785. He added the library wing to the mansion and in the garden was responsible for the building of the boathouse and the removal of several features that were not in keeping with the general classical and gothic styles (including a Turkish Tent). He also considerably enhanced the planting – the Temple of Apollo rises from a wooded slope, that was planted in Colt Hoare”s time. With the antiquarian passion of the times, he had 400 ancient burial mounds dug up in order to inform his pioneering History of Ancient Wiltshire.
- A miniature replica of Stourhead House featured as Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward”s residence in the Thunderbirds television series.
- Temple of Apollo and Palladian Bridge can be seen in the 2005 movie Pride & Prejudice.
- Stourhead House was featured on the cover of English indie rock band Milburn”s single What Will You Do (When The Money Goes)?
- The gardens were used in the film Barry Lyndon.