Stourhead: The Garden That Turned Bankers Into Great Gardeners

Stourhead: The Garden That Turned Bankers Into Great Gardeners
Stourhead: The Garden That Turned Bankers Into Great Gardeners
Video: Stourhead: The Garden That Turned Bankers Into Great Gardeners
Video: The magical 18th-century landscape gardens at Stourhead, Wiltshire 2023, February
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Stourhead. View of the highest point of the garden - Temple of Apollo
Stourhead. View of the highest point of the garden - Temple of Apollo

Stourhead. View of the highest point of the garden - Temple of Apollo

The Stourhead estate in Wilkeshire in the UK is one of the greatest examples of garden art, which has become a significant contribution to landscape culture not only in the 18th century, but also in our time. We visited it at the end of May, when rhododendrons were still raging in the garden, and passed the “road of paradise” conceived by the owner, which either plunges into the forest, then leads to the shore of a large reservoir, or invites you to relax on benches, which are numerous here. It is impossible to tell about him without an excursion into English history, art and even politics. But the main thing is without a family lineage closely related to this unique place.

The village was once the ancestral home of the Stourton family, which acquired 1,000 acres of land in 1448 to build a park here. By 1704, the family went bankrupt and had to sell the land.

The garden owes its appearance to Henry II Choir, who inherited the house here from his father, also Henry, in 1725, at the age of 20. His father, a successful London banker, bought him not only to enjoy nature. With this, he attracted the favor of many local landowners, who entrusted him with their finances. Under him there was a usual village landscape, only a few ponds were made for fishing.

Stourhead. The surrounding countryside has been preserved
Stourhead. The surrounding countryside has been preserved

Stourhead. The surrounding countryside has been preserved

Stourhead. The surrounding countryside has been preserved
Stourhead. The surrounding countryside has been preserved

Stourhead. The surrounding countryside has been preserved

Having received the estate, the son at first did not show interest in him, he was more interested in banking, which brought him very high income at that time. Then he went to Italy. Returning to Stourhead in 1741, after the death of his mother, two years later he lost his wife. Then he finally decides to stay here. Trying to embody what he saw in Italy, he in 1744-46. was the first to build the ancient Temple of the Goddess Flora in the Palladian style, to which his father's house also corresponded. It is dedicated to the Roman goddess of spring and flowers and was built under the impression of the famous Pliny Garden.

Stourhead. Temple of the goddess Flora
Stourhead. Temple of the goddess Flora

Stourhead. Temple of the goddess Flora

The new owner had to work “from a blank canvas”. There were two steep valleys with many springs, and the Stor River flowed below - hence the name of the estate. After the dam was built, the valley was filled with water and turned into a picturesque lake.

Stourhead. Lake view
Stourhead. Lake view

Stourhead. Lake view

Stourhead. View of the temple of the goddess Flora
Stourhead. View of the temple of the goddess Flora

Stourhead. View of the temple of the goddess Flora

At the beginning of the century, formal gardens still dominated British gardens, but by the 30s they began to go out of fashion, as too expensive and difficult to maintain. In 1712 the critic Joseph Adisson proposed creating promenade gardens, with modest "embroidery" of meadows, adorned with art in places, with corn fields in perspective.

Soon a circular path appeared in the estate for walking around the lake. Under the impression of two landscape paintings by Gaspard Dughet, which are still preserved in the mansion, a "picturesque" garden was created, expressing an idealized nature. The credit for this belongs to Henry's grandson, Richard Colt Hoare, who carried out many delicate transformations here. Behind the man-made lake, wonderful views open up, in the spring in the multicolored rhododendrons, and in the fall - in the bright colors of autumn foliage. Symbolic buildings are buried in greenery, none of which is accidental here.

Stourhead. Grotto
Stourhead. Grotto

Stourhead. Grotto

Stourhead. Entrance to the grotto with the words of Virgil
Stourhead. Entrance to the grotto with the words of Virgil

Stourhead. Entrance to the grotto with the words of Virgil

Stourhead. View from the grotto
Stourhead. View from the grotto

Stourhead. View from the grotto

Well aware of the importance of water sources for the garden, Henry Horus dedicated statues of a water nymph and a river god to them, which were installed in a domed grotto. As you know, grottoes are a Roman invention, a dwelling of mermaids and nymphs, therefore tuff and limestone for its construction were brought from Italy itself, and outside they were lined with local tree vegetation and ferns.

Stourhead. Stone from Italy
Stourhead. Stone from Italy

Stourhead. Stone from Italy

Stourhead. Fern-covered stone
Stourhead. Fern-covered stone

Stourhead. Fern-covered stone

Stourhead. Steps above the grotto
Stourhead. Steps above the grotto

Stourhead. Steps above the grotto

The prototype of the statue of the sleeping nymph was the famous figure of Ariadne from the Vatican garden. In front of the marble nymph, lines from a 15th century poem are carved. By the way, they did not immediately decide on the construction of the grotto, as they believed that the dampness inside would attract many toads, but later they did not regret it. The baptismal font in front of the nymph, filled with water, in hot summer allowed the owner to freshen up during a walk, which he compared with the magic of "Asian luxury".

The statue of the river god, symbolizing the Stor river, faces the exit from the grotto. With his hand he points to the Pantheon - the culmination point of the garden, visible through the opening of the grotto on the opposite bank.

Stourhead. Nymph statue
Stourhead. Nymph statue

Stourhead. Nymph statue

Stourhead. River god
Stourhead. River god

Stourhead. River god

Stourhead. View of the Pantheon
Stourhead. View of the Pantheon

Stourhead. View of the Pantheon

Next to the grotto there is a quaint Gothic house, to which the descendants later added a porch and made it more functional. Previously, it was buried in vegetation, but now it offers a magnificent view of the lake and the Pantheon.

Stourhead. Gothic house
Stourhead. Gothic house

Stourhead. Gothic house

Stourhead. Gothic house
Stourhead. Gothic house

Stourhead. Gothic house

The Pantheon was created according to the sketches of the owner's favorite architect - Henry Fleetcroft, who also worked on the Flora Temple. This is the most beautiful and most important structure in the garden. Its location halfway along the ring road allows for pause. Once there were picnics and dinners. In the niches of the Pantheon there are statues of Dionysius - the god of wine and winemaking, and Venus. Several more female antique characters were dedicated to the wife and daughters of the owner of the garden; they are now preserved in a museum in London.

Stourhead. Pantheon
Stourhead. Pantheon

Stourhead. Pantheon

Stourhead. View of the Pantheon
Stourhead. View of the Pantheon

Stourhead. View of the Pantheon

The construction of the Pantheon reflected the owner's youthful impressions of visiting Italy; several tablets with lines from Virgil's Aeneid appeared in the garden. Virgil was a favorite poet of the Roman Emperor Augustus, with whose reign the British partly associate the flourishing of their culture, political domination and peace in the early 18th century. They also paid tribute to Alfred the Great, the creator of the jury and “the founder of the English monarchy and freedom,” as the inscription on the three-sided garden tower dedicated to him says.

From the old house now there is only one designation in the form of a gate, entwined with a maiden triangular grape, since 1799 the house has been located in a different place.

Stourhead. Remains of an old house turned into a gate
Stourhead. Remains of an old house turned into a gate

Stourhead. Remains of an old house turned into a gate

Stourhead. Stable
Stourhead. Stable

Stourhead. Stable

Stourhead. A fragment of the regular garden next to the house
Stourhead. A fragment of the regular garden next to the house

Stourhead. A fragment of the regular garden next to the house

Stourhead New Home
Stourhead New Home

Stourhead New Home

Stourhead New Home
Stourhead New Home

Stourhead New Home

Stourhead New Home
Stourhead New Home

Stourhead New Home

The Walled Garden, which previously provided the kitchen with fruits and vegetables, is now a true treasure trove. Here in the greenhouse, the largest collection of pelargoniums in the country is located. It began to collect Richard Colt Hoare at the beginning of the 19th century, bringing rare specimens from South Africa, so that by 1821 there were already more than 600 varieties. In addition to collecting, he was also engaged in hybridization. Plants have been repeatedly exhibited at exhibitions, and one of their subspecies was named after the owner of the collection in commemoration of his services to the English Royal Society of Gardeners.

Stourhead. Walled Garden surrounded by palmettes
Stourhead. Walled Garden surrounded by palmettes

Stourhead. Walled Garden surrounded by palmettes

Stourhead. Walled Garden surrounded by palmettes
Stourhead. Walled Garden surrounded by palmettes

Stourhead. Walled Garden surrounded by palmettes

Stourhead. Greenhouse
Stourhead. Greenhouse

Stourhead. Greenhouse

Stourhead. Glacier
Stourhead. Glacier

Stourhead. Glacier

Nearby there is a glacier, of which Henry Horus was very proud, in it in the summer they kept in straw the ice cut from the lake, which was then a great luxury. Nearby are 400-500-year-old chestnuts. Turning into the forest behind the stables, in a clearing you can see the bignoniform catalpa from India, planted back in 1791 (it is among the first specimens to appear in Britain).

From the house to the west, beyond the Great Meadow, at the end of the spruce alley, an obelisk is visible. This spruce alley is the first that appeared in the garden back in 1730. It was followed by plantings to the north and south of the lake of broad-leaved (beech, oak, field maple, sycamore, chestnut, ash) and conifers (larch, Norwegian spruce, yew, Lebanese cedar, weeping willow on the shore near the grotto).

Stourhead. Obelisk
Stourhead. Obelisk

Stourhead. Obelisk

Stourhead. Walking route
Stourhead. Walking route

Stourhead. Walking route

Stourhead. Maple
Stourhead. Maple

Stourhead. Maple

It is believed that the obelisks originate from Ancient Egypt. The Romans were the first to use them to decorate the garden, then the fashion for them returned in the Renaissance. The fate of this is very dramatic. The first obelisk was erected here in 1746. By 1836, it began to crumble, so the stone had to be replaced, but already in 1853, after a lightning strike, a new reconstruction was needed.

Nearby, at the edge of the lawn, is a 200-year-old liriodendron (tulip tree), already planted by Richard Colt Hoare. His timid attempts to transform the garden were expressed in the Fir Alley along the southern slope. However, over time, some of the fir trees had to be removed, since they destroyed the harmony of deciduous trees, and only some specimens remained.

There is a stone arch and a small Underworld surrounded by majestic holly, laurel, yew and rhododendron trees designed to evoke a serious, respectful mood.

Stourhead. Stone arch
Stourhead. Stone arch

Stourhead. Stone arch

Stourhead Underworld
Stourhead Underworld

Stourhead Underworld

The circular road runs along the water's edge in the deep shade of trees, among which beech dominates over deciduous trees interspersed with spruce. Now the walking route has been much extended inland, capturing distant, almost deaf corners of the garden, overgrown with woody plants with undergrowth of various rhododendrons. Previously, it was limited to the outline of a pond, which could be crossed over an oak bridge. Now the bridge is iron, it was erected in 1860. From the bridge from the southern part of the garden, you can see the valley, which in the 18th century was a closed reindeer farm. The steep slopes on the left and on the right are called Sunny and Shadow, in tune with the fashionable hobby of the gardeners of that century with the play of light and shadow. Here is a picture of the rural world surrounding the estate, in accordance with the precepts of Joseph Addison.The picture of village life is enhanced by the impression of a dam with ancient water mechanisms. Next to the dam is a magnificent steep waterfall, which was built a little later than the dam, to discharge excess water from the main lake into the lower pond. The author of the waterfall project, W. Bumfield, by that time was already famous for the creation of a similar one in the Hestercombe garden in Somerset.

Stourhead
Stourhead

Stourhead

Stourhead
Stourhead

Stourhead

Stourhead
Stourhead

Stourhead

Stourhead
Stourhead

Stourhead

Stourhead
Stourhead

Stourhead

Stourhead
Stourhead

Stourhead

From the dam, the path leads to the arch, which now has a purely decorative function, and was once part of a bridge that sank over time. From it you can climb the hill to the temple of Apollo, the sun god, without which the antique component of the garden would be unthinkable. It was built on the model of the most revered temple in the Belvedere, in the Vatican. Its reflection in the water could be seen from everywhere, and lawns stretched around the hill. Richard Colt Hall was dissatisfied with this modesty, and added a hardwood around with an undergrowth of noble laurel. Ornamental shrubs and magnolias are located at the foot of the temple. And the center of the island opposite was occupied by a large tulip tree clearly visible from everywhere, the second in this garden.

Stourhead. Temple of Apollo
Stourhead. Temple of Apollo

Stourhead. Temple of Apollo

Stourhead. Island with liriodendron
Stourhead. Island with liriodendron

Stourhead. Island with liriodendron

Further, in the direction of the village, the traveler comes to the Palladian bridge, the prototype of which was the bridge of the same name and Vincenze. Despite its exclusively decorative function, the owner asked the architect to make the water visible through the arches of the bridge, as if it were coming down from the village.

Stourhead. View of the Palladio Bridge
Stourhead. View of the Palladio Bridge

Stourhead. View of the Palladio Bridge

Stourhead. Palladian bridge
Stourhead. Palladian bridge

Stourhead. Palladian bridge

The Gothic cross brought a useful vertical to the garden, towering over the collection of rhododenrons and Hunners. He made a beautiful pair of the adjacent church and gave the garden a certain fabulousness. These two buildings symbolize the superiority of the British lifestyle over the ancient world. The tall cross from Bristol's market square embodies Britain's prosperity as a trading nation, and the old church the enduring strength of the Protestant religion.

Stourhead
Stourhead

Stourhead

Stourhead
Stourhead

Stourhead

As for the village of Stourton itself, Henry II Hoare immediately felt that it should be abandoned in order to expand the space, while many owners destroyed the villages to create the gardens. But Richard Colt Hoare later demolished several structures that lay between the church and the garden.

Henry II Choir and Richard Colt Hoore and his wife Esther, who died at a young age, rest at St. Peter's Church. A tribute is paid to the manager of the garden, Francis Faguan, who supervised the work of 50 gardeners.

The last years of the life of Henry II Hoare were overshadowed by the changing political situation in the country, the war with America and fears for his banking affairs. Transferring the garden in 1773 to the possession of his grandson Richard Colt Hoare, whose name has already been mentioned several times in our narrative, he promised to leave the banking field for this estate.

Even with the creator of the garden, shortly after the construction of the Pantheon, visitors began to be invited here, who rated it as one of the most picturesque in the world. And in 1800, the first garden guide appeared.

Richard Colt Hoare was a lover of exotic flora, it was he who filled the garden with rhododendrons, first introduced, and then more modern hybrids. Some of the aged spruce trees were replaced with deciduous trees - beeches, maples, chestnuts, lindens. Inside the Pantheon, a large statue of Hercules was erected, who, as you know, performed 12 labors. Richard Colt Hoare dedicated it to his family of London bankers, who raised the funds for his free existence in nature. He also planted laurels at the Temple of Apollo and collected a collection of pelargoniums. Some visitors noted how the lawn area is shrinking and new shrubs appear.

Stourhead. Rhododendrons
Stourhead. Rhododendrons

Stourhead. Rhododendrons

Stourhead. Rhododendrons
Stourhead. Rhododendrons

Stourhead. Rhododendrons

Having fulfilled the will of his grandfather, he focused his life on the garden and his beloved library, leaving after the early departure of his wife alone and childless. After his death, the estate passed in 1838 to his half-brother Henry Hugh - he re-established contact with the bank, which paid for the restoration of the obelisk and the addition of the portico to the house.

Stourhead. Chilean araucaria
Stourhead. Chilean araucaria

Stourhead. Chilean araucaria

After 3 years, Stourhead was owned by his son Henry Hoare, who followed the path of Richard Colt Hoare and immediately left the banking business. He was more involved in maintaining buildings and planting forest species for commercial use. But thanks to him, conifers from the American continent recently introduced into Britain appeared in the garden - hemlock and pseudo-tree, folded thuja, Lawson's cypress, metasequoia glyptostrobus, Chilean araucaria.

Henry Hoare's son, who owned the estate from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, no longer worked in the bank, he raised horses here and cherished the garden. Quite overgrown by that time, the garden was cleared of underbrush and raging laurel, the grotto and the Bristol cross were saved, new ornamental shrubs were planted, and special attention was paid to rhododendrons.

Suffering from rheumatism, the owner found himself in a wheelchair, and in 1936 decided to transfer Stourhead to the National Trust. A year before the settlement of all legal issues, which happened only by 1946 (this was the first precedent for the transfer of such ownership to the state), Heinrich died. His faithful wife survived for only 6 hours.

In the words of one of the great contemporaries, "Choirs lived to enjoy the transformation of the desert into paradise." Everyone knows that it takes 300 years to grow an English lawn. Something like this is the case with the garden, as follows from the history of this English family, who presented their country with an excellent example of landscape art and dedication to gardening.

Photo: Rita Brilliantova, Svetlana Chizhova

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