It has a unique Regency library, Chippendale furniture, inspirational paintings, many of which were as a result of 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 shows Sir Richard Colt Hoare with his son Henry standing in an Italianate landscape, but it was Henry's son - Henry 'the Magnificent', who was responsible for the magnificent landscaped gardens and the house.
Alda, Lady Hoare
The last members of the Hoare family to live at Stourhead were Sir Henry and Alda Hoare. 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 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, Henry, 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 whilst regaling them with his exploits on his Grand Tour. He wrote books with hints for 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 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
To end I must include this wonderful urn made out of Derbyshire Blue John. Only small pieces of Blue John are found today. I recently found a modern small Blue John bowl for sale measuring 7.5 cms dia/4 cms high which cost £1,250