Stourhead ~ Continues

by Ann Lethbridge

First some writing news. Back in the summer Ann was invited to submit a story for a Mills and Boon Anthology. It will be out in the UK in August. My story is called The Governess and the Earl and it is already listed on Amazon. No cover yet, but you can be sure I will post it here the moment I see it.

This is the view of the portico ceiling. The attention to detail is truly amazing. While this portico was not added until 1838, replacing the frontage you saw in the drawing at the beginning of this series, it was part of the original design.

One of the things you may not know about Stourhead is the fact that it caught fire in 1902. So while attempts were made to reproduce the original house, the lack of detailed drawings hampered the craftsmen of that time.

As usual one is not permitted to take pictures inside the house, but I did buy the guide book and can tell you that the house contains wonderful pieces of furniture from the eighteenth century.

Some examples are som beautiful console tables with fox supports made in the 1740's. I must put those in a book.

There are beautiful hall-chairs and bronzed torcheres made by Thomas Chippendale the Younger.

Of particular note is the Library. It survived the fire. Built in 1792 it is a magnificent example of a Regency library . Some of its most interesting features are: a lattice work barrel ceiling (Wikipedia provides an example at the link), but the ceiling at Stourhead is far more elegant and the beautiful shelving let into the plasterwork walls are works of art, having curved tops to match the curve in the ceiling at each end of the room.

I do wish I could show you, but I could not find any copyright free pictures.

All of the furniture was supplied in 1804-1805 by Thomas Chippendale the Younger.

The massive writing-desk has legs carved with the heads of philosophers and Egyptians. The armchairs have round seats and yoke-shaped backs and are very much in the French style with Egyptian heads carved into the arms so popular after Napoleon conquered Egypt.

If you can't visit Stourhead and would like to see the interior features, I highly recommend sending for the guidebook just to see a watercolour picture of the library drawn in 1804.

Our last picture is our last view of the house looking back.

And so we say farewell to Stourhead, with much regret.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Stourhead ~ Continued

by Ann Lethbridge,

This is the longest walk known to regency enthusiast. We have been on the road together for months and months, but then it is all about the journey and not the destination.

Enough philosophy. Where were we?

Ah yes. The Stables.

How about this for a fancy horse dwelling? Yes this really did accommodate horses. There a some still in residence.

The stables are in a square formation and entered through a gate in a wall. I love the stonework, and you can clearly see how it has been altered over the years, arches removed, windows added.

You can see from the next picture that not only horses would have been kept here but their carriages too. And I have also added yet another stable. You can see that the horses in both of these went through a door into an sort of alleyway with three or four stalls rather that eight or nine stalls I would have expected.

Very pampered horses I would say.

The carriage and stable yard are thought to stand on the site of the original Stourton House which was around in the time of King Alfred the Great, i.e prior to 899.

There is a drawing of that family's fortified house drawn in 1685, but by our time it seems the stables had replaced it. To me a sad loss, but I am sure the new buildings were far more comfortable.

The guests of our time would not have stopped at the stables of course. They would have been driven up to the front door.

This is the view they would have been presented with.

Next time we will go inside. Until then, happy rambles.

Stourhead Continues Some More

by Ann Lethbridge
Fascinatingly, at one point in time, Stourhead had its own hermit.

Now this picture of some ruins in the grounds is probably not it. The guide says the hermitage is no longer there.

But I had fun imaginingt some bearded elderly gentleman earning a living by sitting in this structure, just so those living in the house could say, there is a hermit living at the bottom of my garden.

And if you can have a temple and a parthenon and a gothic cottage, why not have a hermit?

That is it for the garden. There is a walled garden. There is also a tower. Since we wanted to see the house, we decided to save them for another day. And so, you will have to wait for those too.

Stourhead House

No, no, this is not it! This is just the gate.

But you knew that, didn't you?

Imagine driving up to the Stourhead house in your carriage or phaeton. Such an impressive entrance.

The gate was built in 1799 and was a replica of an earlier gate set between the village and the stable yard.

As you can probably tell I did not take the above picture, but I did want you to see the front of the gate. By this time my camera was misbehaving - I had to buy a new one, and so a couple of my pictures didn't come out.

I did want to share this one with you. Over the years I have seen lots of gatehouse, but I did think this was one of the prettiest I've ever seen.

There are a lot of things about Stourhead that makes one want to say that. But the reason I was so excited to find this gatehouse was that it is how I imagined the gatehouse in "Captured for the Captain's Pleasure" would look. Only I added a bedroom in the eaves.

Yes I know that title makes you think of ships and ocean, but there is a fair bit of dry land too. In that book, the house itself is burned down, but fortunately Stourhead while it did suffer a major fire in the early nineteen hundreds, much of the interior was either saved or replicated.

A wide drive sweeps in a curve up to the house. It is bordered on the right by Spanish chestnut trees.

To give you an idea of the size and age of these trees, my husband kindly offered to stand next to one.

Did I say offered?

Well he suffered through it anyway, bless him.

Where is the house, say you?

But first we have to park our car in the garage. Ahem, take the carriage to the stable.

We will start there, next time. I promise you, it is worth the wait.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Stourhead Continues

by Michele Ann Young

We are in the middle of our January thaw, with a couple of days of very mild weather, but the weatherman kindly assures us it will not continue.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to resume our ramble around Stourhead and forget about the climate.

Here we have the Pantheon as promised.

‘Few buildings exceed the magnificence, taste and beauty of this temple’
- Horace Walpole

The Pantheon is the garden's largest and most important building, we saw it in my earlier pictures. It sits on the edge of the lake and can be seen from all different angles as one walks.

Its interior is equally magnificent, with marble statues and reliefs set around the main circular hall.

It was designed by architect Henry Flitcroft, and built in 1753-4, and no doubt provided an impressive setting for Henry Hoare II’s picnics and summer parties. And yes, if you think you recognized it from Pride and Predjudice - you are right.

This is the temple, called after The Temple of Apollo.

Remember we saw it in one of my earlier pictures. It stands at the western edge of the garden up on a hill.

It was built in 1765 by Flitcroft, inspired by the circular temple of Baalbec in Syria.

Apollo is the sun god without whom no garden can flourish.

Actually I'm feeling a bit like a sunless garden myself at the moment. Roll on spring.

This last picture is of a cascade or waterfall. It is one of those things that one just comes across. Another one of Stourhead's surprises

There are more to come.

Until next time, happy rambles

Stourhead Revisted ~~ Again

by Ann Lethbridge

Continue around to the end of the lake and yet another surprise awaits. A grotto. A sort of above ground man-made cave set close to the edge of the water.

Within a series of arched tunnels and steps you are greeted by a water nymph. A spring, according to the inscription, flows around her and down into the pool in front of her. Very fanciful and it seems to me very Regency.

I took this picture from within the grotto beneath a stone arch overlooking the lake. Can you see the bridge at the far end. Now you have an idea of how far we have walked. We are only half way around.

Last but not least we have the river god, out last inhabitant of the grotto. He directs up and out of this sort of underwater world to the pantheon beyond.

And that is a visit we will make next time.

Until then. Happy Rambles.

Stourhead Continued

by Ann Lethbridge

Summer is over. And today is a typical wet and windy fall day. My word it is a long time since I posted on this topic. We still have lots to see.

This part of our walk is all about the garden, so I will be tagging this one Flora and Fauna as well. And just to remind me, This walk was around June 1.

Stourhead Gardens are a mix of natural areas and plantings as you will see.

Here are some lovely foxgloves. We found them growing apparently wild beneath the trees. Not that this might not be a deliberate planting.

In the background of the first picture you can also see one of the rhododendrons, a pretty orange colour.

The gardens are quiet. It is like going back in time. There are no engine noises or other mechanical sounds. Just the wind in the trees and this next creature is very happy about that too.

I don't know about you, but this to me looked like Peter Rabbit of Beatrix Potter fame. Look how close he let me get before he hopped off.

I don't suppose he is the gardener's friend as rabbits tend to do quite a bit of damage. It is odd to see so many bunnies around England. When I was young they had just finished the myxomatosis program which did away with most of the rabbits (very cruelly as it turned out) and they were rarely seen, now they can be found nibbling along the verges of roads, and in meadows and fields every where you look.

Apparently, rabbits are not native to England, which may account for why they seem to over-run the countryside. They were brought in by the Romans and we then exported them to Australia.

What did history teach us?

The next sight to grace our vision on our walk was this wonderful tree. Clearly old. Clearly huge.

Now I am guessing a little here. I believe this is a Cedar of Lebanon. I am quite happy to be corrected.

What ever it is, the dark green needles stood out amongst the paler leaf greens of the other trees.

Our last tree is always a pleasure to see, because of its colouring. Red leaves among all the green.

There are lots of different red trees around the world but there is something quite stunning about the copper beech. And this one is set out in the middle of the lawn and shown off quite beautifully.

Well that is it for me for today. Lots of Stourhead to come.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Stourhead continued

by Ann Lethbridge

Just popping down to the garden to mow the bridge, dear.

I've no idea if this bridge was always grassed like this but I found it fascinating.

There are all kinds of interesting surprises and views at Stourhead. It really is a feast for the eyes, and if you've a mind to satisfy your appetite then join me on my walk.

It is a long one, with all kinds of winding trails.

Now what is this I wonder? It is the next surprise as we meander around the lake. More about the what it is later, but you must admit it is an intriguing tumble of ruin set amid the trees on the edge of the far side of the lake.

Once more, and completely by happenstance, my framing of the picture is quite elegant. Now I do wish I could paint a picture like that. Look at all those different shades of green. It would make a wonderful jigsaw puzzle too. Let us stroll on a littler further

And what is this we see on the hill yonder, a mausoleum? A temple?

Difficult to tell from here. But cast your eye over the array of colours below. The rhododendrons in full bloom.

Imagine having a view like that in your back yard and wandering around it in your sprigged muslin on the arm of a gentleman dressed in skin-tight pantaloons and a snowy white cravat.

Goodness I think I need to sit down and take a breather. I feel quite warm and my stays are suddenly tighter than they were when I left home.

Let us just sit and admire the view together. I have given you some mysteries to observe, which I promise to unravel later in our walk. But there is much more to see before then.

We will continue our walk next time, Happy Rambles.

More Stourhead

by Michele Ann Young

This was my first view of the gardens at Stourhead.

The reflection of the bridge in the water, the distant folly and the tree branches framing the picture all made the perfect portrait of another time.

I didn't quite believe what I was seeing.

I took several shots of this view, but this is my favorite, even if it does have a bit of fence in the foreground. Although this next one, from a slightly different angle comes pretty close.

Do you think the designer of the garden intended for the bridge to make such a perfect ellipse? My guess is yes.

I will be using this on my website in the header, as soon as I can remember how.

The gardens were designed by Henry Hoare II (remember Hoare's bank) and laid out between 1741 and 1780 in a classical 18th-century design set around a large lake achieved by damming a small stream. The inspiration behind their creation were the painters Claude Lorrain, Poussin and in particular, Gaspar Dughet who painted Utopian-type views of Italian landscapes.

You certainly can't get more Utopian that the views above, which is why I am going to to post all of my Stourhead pictures over the next few blogs, and I hope you will not be bored, but for me this estate epitomised my internal image of the perfect English country estate in the late 18th and early 19th century and I want to capture it where I can visit it again and again.

At the time of year we visited, early June, one of the draws for the gardens was the display of "azaleas". It was only as we walked around that I realized that azaleas and rhododendrons are of the same family.

The Rhododendron ponticum, called Common Rhododendron were introduced around the lake by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1791. Unfortunately these bushes while beautiful, are not native to Britain and have been encroaching on our natural plants at an alarming rate. But since this is not a blog about saving natural plantlife, I will say no more on that topic. Later he added two Rhododendron arboreum.

In this last picture you will see flashes of colour which are some of the rhododendrons in bloom, for we were lucky enough to be there right when most of them were flowering and the colours, everything from white which you see at the edge of this shot to deep red, which you see just beyond the bridge, were ours to enjoy.

This is a very long ramble, and so here we will take a rest and begin our journey around the lake next time. Until then, drink a nice cup of tea and keep cool beneath the trees.

Stourhead ~ Wiltshire

by Ann Lethbridge

The house and park at Stourhead were a wonderful surprise.

Here is the house as seen in 1817. Did you fall in love yet? Could the house be any grander?

Note the blocked windows at the end of the wing. I don't have an explanation for it, or at least not as yet, except that it may have been another of those window tax cost savings.

And there are our Regency folk, walking on the drive with sheep on the lawn. One way to keep the grass under control.

But let us start at the beginning.

Stourhead was originally owed by the ancient Barons Stourton, who had lived there since Saxon times and the property then was called Stourton House. That house was demolished in 1717 after it was purchased by Henry Hoare I. The Hoares were and are bankers. They still own the last of the privately owned banks in England. And our Regency characters, those of the nobility, might well have banked with Hoare's Bank.

Not all of the the Stourtons was wiped off the map, because part of the Stourhead estate contains the village of Stourton.

One walks through the village to get to the house and grounds.

While the village has a love parish church, St Peter's, pictured here, there are only about five or so actual dwellings in the village proper.

It really is enchanting. It feels like a trip back in time.

We were there in the very last days of May and I think you can see how lush and green everything was from this picture and the spray of roses up the side of the house was so typical of so many cottages and houses that we saw on our travels.

Next time we are going to take a ramble in the park itself.