Although we are a few months into the year I thought I would make a short post about a trip we took just a couple of days into the new year of 2018. With the family and my girlfriend, we set out on a chilly day, with snow still in some shadowy areas, we visited the nearby Stourhead. A very picturesque place, and a nice place to spend an afternoon. Also, there is plenty of history surrounding the place to get stuck into. I took a few photos on my phone, and I thought I would share.
Stourhead is a 2,650-acre estate around the source of the river Stour. It is near Mere in Wiltshire, and contains the village Stourton, extensive gardens, farmland, woodland and a palladian mansion. The estate was owned by the Stourton family for 500 years, until they sold it to Sir Thomas Meres in 1714. The Stourton family has a Peerage associated with it, so there is a Baron Stourton. In 1717 It was sold to Henry Hoare, the son of a wealthy banker, and he demolished the original manor house. Colen Campbell and Nathaniel Ireson designed and built the current house between 1721 and 1725. Over the next 200 years the family collected lots of heirlooms, including a large library and art collection. In 1902 there was a bad fire in the house, but most of the heirlooms were saved. The house was rebuilt almost exactly the same. The son of the final owner, Sir Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare, gave the house and gardens to the National Trust in 1946, a year before he died. His son died at the Battle of Mughar Ridge during World War 1.
Most people got to Stourhead the walk around the lake and gardens. Taking a walk around the lake is meant to evoke a journey based on Aeneas’s descent into the underworld. The buildings and monuments around the lake are in remembrance of family and local history. The style of the garden is meant to be inspired by a painting bought by Henry Hoare, Claude Lorrain’s Aeneas at Delo. The gardens were designed by Henry Hoare II and laid out between 1741 and 1780. The lake was artificially created by damming the small stream. The concept of the small areas with a big monuments is that they invite you over, and then you can see the next one, and that invites you over to that, it is designed to make you want to walk round the garden.
Stourhead, as its name suggests is where the river Stour starts. It is a 61 mile (98km) river which flows through Wiltshire and Dorset, and drains into the English channel. It is sometimes known as the Dorset Stour to distinguish it from the rivers of the same name in Kent, Suffolk and the Midlands. According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Britain & Ireland, the name Stour rhymes with hour and derives from Old English meaning violent, fierce or the fierce one. A large part of the river is followed by the now disused Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway. These trailways are now parts of the Stour Valley Way, a trail that follows the river from the mouth all the way to stourhead, running roughly 64 miles. A number of towns and villages in Dorset are named after the river, including East Stour, West Stour, Stourpaine, Stourton Caundle, Stour Row, Stour Provost, Sturminster Newton, and Sturminster Marshall. Sturminster Newton is famous for a water mill and town bridge which still has a notice warning vandals of penal transportation for those who wish to damage the bridge.
There are some great little facts that come from Stourhead,might be useful for a pub quiz, or just to annoy your friends.
- The Temple of Apollo and Palladian Bridge can be seen in the 2005 film Pride & Prejudice, the one starring Keira Knightley.
- In the Thunderbird TV series (the original one with the puppets), the model for Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward’s mansion was based off of Stourhead house.
- The corporate font for the National Trust font is based on an inscription in the grotto. It was created in 1748 but was accidentally destroyed by mistake in the 1960’s, so the one there now is a replica.
- King Alfred’s tower, a folly on the Stourhead estate, was built near Egbert’s stone, where it was said that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex rallied the Saxons in May 878 before the Battle of Edington.
- King Alfred’s tower is the start of a 28 mile footpath called the Leland Trail that runs to Ham Hill country park.
link to information about the Stour Valley Way (Long Distance Walkers Association): https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Stour+Valley+Way+%28Dorset%29