Stourhead House Part 1

1 : Introduction to Stourhead
2 : Stourton Village
3 : Stourton Church

4 : Stourhead Gardens
5 : Stourhead Grotto
6 : Stourhead Pantheon

7 : Stable Yards and Kitchen Gardens
8 : Stourhead House

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 1721 and 1725.

Over the next 200 years the Hoare family collected many heirlooms, including a large library and art collection.

In 1902 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.


Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare (1865-1947) first met his future wife, Alda Weston, when he was eight and she was twelve.

By 1888 they were married and living in Buckinghamshire. Here their only son, Henry Colt Arthur Hoare, 'Harry' was born.

Stourhead at the time belonged to Henry's cousin, Sir Henry Ainslie, and his wife, Augusta. She loved the country but he preferred city life. The estate was closed up in December 1885 as spiralling costs grew impossible to manage.

On the death of his cousin in 1894 Henry inherited a baronetcy; a house unlived in for several years; an overgrown garden and temples falling into disrepair.

His family packed their belongings, left a house they loved and moved to Stourhead. On arriving in Wiltshire in 1895, they spent several years living in 'the Cottage'' whilst builders and craftsmen restored the house and temples and a team of gardeners tamed the overgrown trees and shrubs.

Whilst work took place around the estate and the couple were busy creating a comfortable home for their son, Sir Henry and Alda were equally committed to establishing themselves in a new part of the country and a new community.

Their dreams went up in smoke on an April morning in 1902 when a fire broke out in a chimney and burnt for hours. The centre of the house collapsed from the attic down into the cellars below.

Servants, gardeners, estate workers and farmhands worked together to salvage as much as possible from the burning building before it fell down, cutting paintings from their frames and pushing furniture out of the windows.

Extensive restoration work was commenced shortly afterwards.


On the 1st August 1914, Harry Hoare travelled from Stourhead to the Drill Hall in Gillingham where he signed up to join the Dorset Yeomanry.

Within a week he had joined his regiment and no longer Estate Manager working for his father, but a soldier fighting for his country.

The first few months of his military service were spent in Dorset, Oxfordshire and Norfolk and on Thursday 1st April 1915 Harry Hoare with the Dorset Yeomanry set sail with their horses for Egypt.

Harrys military career was plagued with injury and ill-health. He would return to Stourhead on occasion to be cared for by his parents. Despite advice from military doctors, every time he was taken ill he returned to the battlefield.

The painting (right) : Henry Colt Arthur Hoare (1888-1917) at Stourhead in the Uniform of the 1st Queen's Own Yeomanry.
Date painted: 1914.
Oil on canvas, 59.5 x 44.5 cm.

Captain Harry Hoare was involved in leading the Charge of El Mughar, Egypt on 13 November 1917 which cost him his life.
Forty-five men were also wounded and 80 horses died in the incident.

The action by the 6th Mounted Brigade - of which the Queen's Own Dorset Yeomanry formed a part - was ordered by British Commander-in-Chief Sir Edmund Allenby. He intended to remove Turkish troops from a key ridge from Katrah to El Mughar as a vital part of his aim to take Jerusalem.

The Dorsets' role was to attack one of the ridge's prominent spurs, which involved covering 4,000 yards (3.7km) of open ground while under fire before dismounting, fixing bayonets and charging up the hill.

Eight machine guns were captured and many prisoners taken. The Adjutant, Capt Robertson, was among the wounded but turned one of the captured weapons on the retreating enemy, earning the Military Cross.

In addition to Capt Hoare, other men who lost their lives were Sgt H J J Guppy, a Weymouth man who had already won a Distinguished Conduct Medal, Lt Cpls W Curtis, W Pike and R Rowe, and Troopers S Bowerman, J Chaldecott, W Crabb and W Hannam.

Harry's father, Sir Henry, never recovered from the loss of his only son and heir and later gave Stourhead to the National Trust in 1946 just prior to his and his wife's death.

A new look introduced in 2014 showed facets of Stourhead during the Edwardian and early 20th century period and allowed visitors to follow the stories of Harry and both his parents, Sir Henry and Alda.

"It is a gentle change to the way we tell the story of Stourhead," explained Emily Blanshard, Stourhead's House manager.

"A lot is told first hand with extracts from Alda's diaries at different parts of the journey (and) objects which are part of the story will be highlighted.

"Around the garden will be found oak posts with Harry's seal highlighting features which link to the story.

"They might be his favourite tree or perhaps the Gothic Cottage which Alda loved."

Examples of the display posts in the garden are shown below. Harry's seal is shown on the pictured programme cover - right - and also on the map to be found on this website's introductory page - please click here .)

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