Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Stourhead House

The jewel in the crown at Stourhead is the world famous landscape garden which can be seen here. However, at its heart is a wonderful Palladian mansion built by the Hoare family in 1721. It is one of the first of its kind to be built in this country, and followed the demolition of the original manor house.
It has a unique Regency library, Chippendale furniture, inspirational paintings, many of which were the result Sir Richard Colt Hoare's Grand Tour.
There are several of these gnarled old Sweet Chestnut trees lining the entrance drive. This one is believed to be nearly 700 years old.
In the entrance hall a painting showing Sir Richard Colt Hoare who inherited Stourhead from his grandfather Henry the Magnificent (responsible for the landscape garden) on the understanding that he gave up all links to the family bank, due to worries over the country's financial situation at that time. This meant that the future of Stourhead was secure even if the bank collapsed - luckily it did not. He went on a Grand Tour following several deaths (which I will elaborate on) and when he eventually returned home he added two wings to the house, creating a Picture Gallery and Library to accommodate his acquistions. He is also known as one of the founders of modern archaeology and had his own museum in the basement of the house.
Alda, Lady Hoare
The last members of the Hoare family to live at Stourhead were Sir Henry and Alda, Lady Hoare who inherited from his cousin. Their only son, Harry, was a sickly boy, but still went to fight in the First World War. Tragically he was killed following a battle in Palestine. His parents were devastated. With the loss of their heir, plans were drawn up to give the estate to the National Trust. Henry and Alda were completely devoted to each other, and they both died on the same day in 1947.
Sir Richard described the paintings in the Music Room as his 'fancy pictures'. The painting above the fireplace is St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. Horace Walpole saw the picture when he visited Stourhead in 1762 and attributed it to Giovanni Paolo Panini. In fact he was wrong it is a copy by Francis Harding.
Sir Richard lost his beloved wife Hester soon after the birth of their second son, who also died. A month later he lost his grandfather. He fled to Europe in his grief leaving his first son in the care of staff and a governess. He returned after two years, but found that his father was very ill. He later wrote in his journal that 'the joy at seeing my son was counter balanced by the decline of my father and his death'. His father's death sent him back to Europe for a further 4 years. One does wonder about his poor son, who saw his father only once for a short period during the 6 years. You can see his son on the first portrait in the entrance hall.
The Regency library via wikipedia 
An extraordinary lunette window in the library based on Raphael's fresco The School of Athens.
When Sir Richard eventually returned home for good he liked entertaining friends to a meal regaling them with his exploits whilst on his Grand Tour. He wrote books with hints to travellers in Italy, and turned his sketches done whilst travelling into ink, or watercolour pictures.There are some 600 in the collection at Stourhead, and another 100 are at Yale. He wrote lots of letters to his friends and his son Henry. However, having spent so much time in Europe while his son was growing up perhaps it is not surprising that their relationship was a bit strained.
Above the fireplace in Sir Richard's bedroom hangs The Sacrifice of Iphigenia, a capriccio painting. A capriccio painting is a form of landscape picture where the artist creates an architectural fantasy - a typical souvenir of the Grand Tour.
Sir Richard's writing desk
I did this collage for Erika at Parvum Opus 
To end I must include this wonderful urn made out of Derbyshire Blue John. Only small pieces of Blue John are found today. I found a modern small Blue John bowl for sale measuring 7.5 cms dia/4 cms high costing £1,250

52 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It is a beautiful house Ioanna and lies in a wonderful position with far reaching views.

      Delete
  2. Very interesting to relate the history of the family to that of the house--most of the Stourhead photos I have seen emphasize the garden or architecture. When I collected antiquities, I often saw Blue John urns and other pieces in Grand Tour-type sales, but as you note, always at high prices.

    The photo I was most taken with here was the ancient chestnut. As you no doubt are aware, the magnificent chestnut forests of American succumbed to a blight, and although they are trying to develop resistant varieties, the clock cannot be turned back on the American chestnut.
    --Road to Parnassus

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Jim - I agree with you about the sweet chestnut tree, it almost has it own eco system with ferns, moss and lichen growing all over it. I did not know about the American ones succumbing to a blight. I am sure that you have heard recently that a fungus has recently arrived in our country from Denmark which is killing our Ash trees. When these trees succumb to disease en masse the countryside never looks the same for generations.
      I once had the opportunity to buy an urn made of Blue John about 30 years ago. It was about 30 cms high and cost £900 which was a lot at the time. However, now I wish that I had bought it, by todays prices it was cheap.

      Delete
  3. Hello Rosemary:
    Although it is several years since we last visited Stourhead House, we remember the Regency Library vividly. It is such an attractive room with every detail perfect. We are certain that if we had such a room we should be tempted never to leave it!

    The 'Grand Tour' is so much less elegant these days as travel becomes a trial rather than a pleasure. How we should have loved to travel with Sir Richard...such style!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Jane and Lance - The library is, I think, the Pièce de résistance within the house. The pistachio colour lends a refined elegance to the room.
      Yes, I am sure travelling with Sir Richard would have been a very elegant affair with servants tending to the baggage and arrangements.

      Delete
  4. Hallo Rosemary!All photos are uniquely beautiful, and very beautiful in Stourhead House, spectacular views from the balcony with the poles!Very imposing the Chestnut trees!I enjoyed this post!Thank you for sharing this fantastic pictures with us!Wish you a lovely day my friend!
    Dimi..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Dimi- I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing Stourhead House, with its far reaching views and wonderful landscape. The Chestnut tree certainly has lots of character to it.

      Delete
  5. What a very interesting story of the life and people who lived in Stourhead house. Its just magnificent.
    How intriguing that Sir Henry and Lady Alda Hoare died on the same day! The year I was born. The national trust have inherited one of Britains most beautiful stunning homes.
    I always learn so much with your historical posts Rosemary.
    Thank you Rosemary.
    most interesting
    thank you also for your kind comments over at my blog
    happy wednesday
    val

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Val - it is rather touching that they both died on the same day especially as they were so devoted to each other. I do not think one would have wanted to be alive without the other. Theirs was a sad life really having just one child who was sickly and then tragically being killed in battle.
      Thanks Val for your very kind comments.

      Delete
  6. Imagine standing next to a 700 year old tree!
    Imagine living in a big castle like this, surrounded by this beautiful garden!
    And still, it doesn't make a person happy, as we can read from the story you write about sir Richard and his son. Material wealth doesn't always make a person happy obviously. Life can be hard, even to the wealthy.
    Bye,
    Marian

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Marian - you are right wealth and happiness do not necessarily go hand in hand. Everyone seems to like that old tree, just imagine the sights it has seen over 700 years, if only it could speak. Thanks for your visit Marian.

      Delete
  7. Dear Rosemary,
    Thank you for another fantastic post, and for the very special treat of the collage featuring Sir Richard's writing desk! Your photos of the maginficent Stourhead are beautiful, as always, and as I was reading, I was secretly hoping that one of the images might show a writing table of some kind--you read my mind! How wonderful that they've diplayed Sir Richard's journal. It makes it possible to relate to the house and the family history in a warmer, more empathetic way. That library is incredible, and Sir Richard sounds like a true Renaissance man. What a shame that his life was so full of tragedy. I wonder if anyone of similar means today would even think of creating a library and archaeological museum like Sir Richard's? I know a couple who have built a museum of sorts to house their collection of giant steel Mark DiSuvero sculptures (and other famous artists), but I think, deep down, that it's a financial investment for them, and not much more...
    I think, after reading your two posts on Stourhead, that it's a "must-see" on our next trip over.
    Warm regards,
    Erika

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Erika - thank you, and I am pleased that you enjoyed the post on Stourhead. I suppose for us today it is difficult to imagine what life was like for wealthy people 300 years ago. On the whole many wealthy people then were extremely philanthropic and did create Art Galleries and Museums which they shared with the general public. I do not know how true that is of the wealthy at the moment. I was reading an article just this last weekend where it talked about the elite today and how they live a stratospheric life, travelling around the world in their private planes and on their huge yachts, and only mixing with each other. What a boring life!!!
      Do hope that you will have the opportunity to visit Stourhead on your next trip.

      Delete
  8. A beautiful mansion Rosemary. I liked the portrait of Lady Hoare. She was beautiful framed in that red jacket.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with you Olive that the portrait of Lady Hoare is lovely. I think that it must have been painted in the 1930s as she has the look of the period. Her dress and everything about her is beautiful.

      Delete
  9. Dear Rosemary - Thank you for this fine tour of Stourhead House. Really stately and handsome. I'm a bit surprised with the library: from the color scheme to the lunette window to the rug, it looks quite fresh and bright (not as dark and traditional like most libraries). The footed urn on pedestal is divine! I've not familiar with Derbyshire Blue John.
    Cheers ~
    Loi

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Loi is a surprise when you walk into it as it is so light and fresh looking. The books are all set in alcoves and with the walls being painted pistachio green it does not have the normal heavy dark appearance. It was done in the Regency style and period.
      There is only a small amount of Blue John left in some seams in Derbyshire. It is called blue but really it is purple, which you can see particularly well when the light pours through it.

      Delete
  10. Incredible interiors!
    what a great tour!

    xoxo, Juliana | PJ’ Happies :) | PJ’ Ecoproject

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed seeing the interior of Stourhead Juliana, and thanks for your visit.

      Delete
  11. Rosemary, I love your ability to make history so entertaining (many teachers could take lessons from you!) The photos are fabulous (I'm left speechless by the age and beauty of the chestnut tree) and am always impressed by the vision people had for these grand estates. I'm curious about the demolition of the original manor house, was it of little significance? After what you have told us of his history, I find it interesting that in the painting of Sir Richard, his son is clearly trying (and not succeeding) to get his father's attention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Rosemary - the original manor house would have been pulled down so that the Hoare family could build themselves something that reflected their wealth and was the very latest fashion. A Palladian Villa at that time was an architectural statement, the first to be designed and built in this country. Most country houses then were still being built in the Baroque style.
      So many commenters have been captivated by the old tree, and as I have previously mentioned, it had a whole eco system growing on it including ferns, mosses, fungi and lichen.
      Thank you Rosemary for your very kind comments re history. I am always a bit concerned as to whether I am giving too much or too little information.

      Delete
  12. What a fabulous place, the columns are great, what a nice tree and the interior is also top.

    Greetings,
    Filip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Filip - I am happy that you enjoyed so many different aspects of this post.

      Delete
  13. Thankyou so much for another interesting virtual tour Rosemary. I particularly like your autumnal photos early on in the post, lovely colours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad that you enjoyed seeing the post. This autumn really has been a memorable one for colour. They say it has been to do with the wet summer.

      Delete
  14. Rosemary,
    I learn so many interesting things by reading your blog. How wonderful to go off around Europe or many years. The Sweet chesnut tree and Urn are amazing.
    Sarah x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Everybody loves the Sweet Chestnut tree it is so gnarled and covered in other growing things, it has a life of its own, well who wouldn't after 700 years.
      You cannot be far away from Stourhead Sarah, you must pay it a visit.

      Delete
  15. Dear Rosemary, There's so much to enjoy in this posting, espicially since I admire Palladio and was not familiar with Stourhead. The capriccio painting is quite wonderful — I like the sense of perspective and that a giant pyramid might reside in a meadow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mark - I know that you enjoy Palladio's work, you may remember from the previous post on the Stourhead landscape the Palladio bridge too. Your mentioning the giant pyramid reminds that we have a large pyramid tombstone in one of our local churches. It is actually the tomb of one of the 18th century tomb stone carvers, and he designed a pyramid for himself. It is rather splendid. I must show it sometime.

      Delete
    2. I'd love to see it! There's a graveyard in Pittsburgh that I've enjoyed wandering through many times because one section is a row of Neoclassic mausoleums. The effect is one of a perfect miniature Athens or Rome. It too has a pyramid.

      Delete
    3. Dear Mark - you are in luck. I have looked through my iPhoto albums and have found a picture of it. It is not terribly good - taken with my old camera. I will sent it by email.

      Delete
  16. We love to find old pieces of Blue John - which doesn't happen very often! My favourites are Victorian Blue John eggs, for cooling the hands when sewing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Nilly many many years ago I had the opportunity to buy a Blue John urn (not on the scale of the one I have shown, but much smaller). It was a lot of money then, and although tempted I decided against it. It would, however, have proved to be a good investment - he who hesitates and all that.
      Didn't know about the Victorian Blue John eggs.

      Delete
  17. Great photos! I love the point of view on the tree and columns. That tree is so awesome! Of course, I like all the books, too. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Marie - I really appreciate your generous comments.

      Delete
  18. I visited Stourhead gardens back in 1988, on a rainy day. It was amazing, I'd love to go back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The day we visited was a perfect day, and the best time of year for the grounds. If you go again then pick the last couple of weeks in October to catch the autumn colours in the landscape.

      Delete
  19. Hello dear Rosemary!
    All your photographs are very beautiful. They give us a good insight to another very interesting building and it's surroundings.
    I can't help but to notice the greek elements both in architecture and on the paintings. It amazes me how well they fit together.

    The story of the family is heartbreaking...

    Wishing you a wodenrful Thursday : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Demie - you are so right, whatever would we have done without the Greeks? Palladio was influenced by the Greek Temples and we in turn followed in his footsteps.
      Glad you enjoyed the photographs and seeing the building and surroundings.
      Yes, wealth does not necessarily save you from heartbreak and tragedy.
      Hope you are well, and not too cold in Norway.

      Delete
  20. Dear Rosemary, I love to travel with you. You take us to the Best Places.
    ox, Gina

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Gina - glad you enjoyed the journey, I love to have you travelling along with me. Hope that you are getting on top of all your jobs. Take care.

      Delete
  21. Never mind the paintings and ornaments, houses such as this with their furnishings and settings are wonderful works of art in their own right. Another lovely, informative post, Rosemary, and I too wonder how someone could leave their motherless child behind like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Perpetua - my heart went out to this little motherless boy, who during the whole grief process, also in effect lost his father too.
      Stourhead is well worth a visit if you are ever in that location.

      Delete
  22. Dear Rosemary,
    I liked this post. I'm not sure why but I've never been to Stourhead myself. It is a lovely building and AGA and I really ought to go and see it. Your post has inspired me to do just that when we are next back over there.
    The ornate fireplaces, the chandelier, the beautiful library. I can see that it would be worth the visit, to gaze upon such beautiful things. I wonder if anyone ever uses that beautiful library. I bet that there are wonderful treasures to be found within those pages.
    Bye for now
    Kirk
    PS
    Lady Hoare's dress reminds me of poppies.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Kirk - I think that you would really enjoy seeing the library, it is unique in that it is a very elegant room and is not overpowered by the books which are set into the walls.
      Lady Hoar's dress does seem to have a poppy effect on the skirt. It is a stunning portrait and I think perhaps it must have been done in the 1930s as it has that period look.

      Delete
  23. Very interesting post. I noticed that the entrance has the Greek architecture, with its columns. I was impressed by the large library and the plethora of old books.
    The view of their balcony is impressive !Thank you for the sharing with us !
    Have a good night !
    Olympia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear OIympia - the entrance as you so rightly say is influenced by Greek architecture. These columns being Corinthian but with a plain shaft rather than fluted.
      Glad you enjoyed having a look around the house Olypmia.

      Delete
  24. I have an interesting virtual tour of this magnificient manor from you. The stories weaved in are heart-rending. You are a good story teller with the makings of a great historian.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for that very generous comment, and so pleased that you enjoyed your virtual tour of Stourhead, it was good to have you along.

      Delete
  25. Fabulous, where to start... I'll take one regency library with high book shelves so I can buy a ladder to slide down with my books, one Derbyshire blue John urn (which I've never seen before and is incredible), the capriccio painting (which I didn't know wre so called) in Sir Richard's bedroom and the beautiful floral arrangement (purely for its traditional composition) underneath Lady Hoare portrait to go please.... wrapped:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can't have the urn Paul - as I am a Derbyshire lass that one is mine, but the rest will be wrapped up in brown paper packages tied up with string.

      Delete

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them too.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh