Stourhead - Italianate mansion and spellbinding lakeside gardens
Stourhead is a grand 2,650-acre estate at the source of the River Stour in southwest Wiltshire. The gardens around a lake are famously beautiful, as is the view across the water to an Italianate lakeside temple.
The estate includes a Grade I listed 18th-century Palladian mansion, the village of Stourton, extensive gardens, farmland, and woodland.
When Stourhead first opened in the 1740s, a magazine described it as ‘a living work of art’. The world-famous landscape garden has at its centrepiece a magnificent lake reflecting classical temples, mystical grottoes, and rare and exotic trees.
The gardens were designed by owner Henry Hoare II and laid out between 1741 and 1780 in a classical 18th-century design set around a large artificial lake, achieved by damming a small stream. The inspiration behind their creation were the painters Claude Lorrain, Poussin, and, in particular, Gaspard Dughet, who painted Utopian-type views of Italian landscapes. An early feature, predating the lake, is the Temple of Flora. Lakeside features include the much-photograped and delightful five-arched Palladian Bridge at the eastern extremity of the lake; the Rockwork Bridge over the road to the south of the lake; the wonderful grotto and the Gothic Cottage summerhouse.
Also in the garden are a number of temples inspired by scenes of the Grand Tour of Europe. On one hill overlooking the gardens stand an obelisk of 1839 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. The gardens are home to a large collection of trees and shrubs from around the world. The garden is arguably at its best in Autumn - due to the autumn colours of the trees and shrubs around the lake, and late spring - when there is a dazzling display of rhododendron and azalea blooms.
Stourhead has been part-owned by the National Trust since 1946.
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