Today a visit to the beautiful gardens of Stourhead, a National Trust property in Wiltshire show no signs of the turmoil and misfortunes that eventually led to Stourhead being known as one of the most beautiful gardens in Britain and maybe the world. A visit any time of year will reveal its beauty, although autumn is especially wonderful. The trials and tribulations of Stourhead are intricately entwined with the history of the Hoare family. The Hoare family had owned the estate since the 18th century. Sir Richard Hoare did many of the renovations to the house and grounds. By the end of the 19th century, the estate belonged to Sir Henry Ainslie. Ainslie was not appreciative of country life so despite his huge house and estate, he went to live in London. Unbelievably the house and grounds were left vacant and abandoned for several years from 1885 to 1894 when the last Henry Hoare inherited it (along with a baronetcy) and decided to move to Stourhead. Henry renovated everything while living in what was known as ‘the cottage’ and finally moved into the big house a couple of years later. In 1902, however, tragedy struck as a fire ripped through the house eventually taking its toll on the very center burning everything from the attic to the cellar. There was a frantic effort by the staff to remove anything valuable before it was too late. And so it was that the family had to rebuild once again. Several years later, in 1907, the son of Henry another Henry (known as Harry) went off to fight in the First World War. He joined up on 1914 and by 1915 was in his way to Egypt. He was plagued with ill health but still stayed in the army. In 1917 however, he succumbed and died of injuries sustained in a battle . The Hoare family continued to take care of Stourhead until 1946 when it was given to the National Trust.
Fun Fact: The second owner of Stourhead, Henry Hoare II was known as ‘The Magnificent’ for spending 20 years getting the gardens and all the temples and follies completed in the 18th century.
See here for Stourhead history and information.
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