Palladian Bridge and Pantheon-Stourhead
The Genius of the Place
The lake at Stourhead is artificially created. Following a path around the lake is meant to evoke a journey similar to that of Aeneas’s descent in to the underworld. In addition to Greek mythology, the layout is evocative of the “genius of the place,” a concept made famous by Alexander Pope. Buildings and monuments are erected in remembrance of family and local history. Henry Hoare was a collector of art- one of his pieces was Nicolas Poussin’s Aeneas at Delos, which is thought to have inspired the pictorial design of the gardens. Passages telling of Aeneas’s journey are quoted in the temples surrounding the lake. Monuments are used to frame one another; for example the Pantheon designed by Flitcroft entices the visitor over, but once reached, views from the opposite shore of the lake beckon. The use of the sunken path allows the landscape to continue on into neighboring landscapes, allowing the viewer to contemplate all the surrounding panorama. The Pantheon was thought to be the most important visual feature of the gardens. It appears in many pieces of artwork owned by Hoare, depicting Aeneas’s travels. The plantings in the garden were arranged in such a manner that would evoke different moods, drawing visitors through realms of thought. According the Henry Hoare; ‘The greens should be ranged together in large masses as the shades are in painting: to contrast the dark masses with the light ones, and to relieve each dark mass itself with little sprinklings of lighter greens here and there.’
The gardens were designed by Henry Hoare II 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. It is similar in style to the landscape gardens at Stowe.
Included in the garden are a number of temples inspired by scenes of the Grand Tours of Europe. On one hill overlooking the gardens there stands an obelisk and King Alfred's Tower, a 50-metre-tall, brick folly designed by Henry Flitcroft in 1772; on another hill the temple of Apollo provides a vantage point to survey the magnificent rhododendrons, water, cascades and temples. The large medieval Bristol High Cross was moved from Bristol to the gardens. Amongst the hills surrounding the site there are also two Iron Age hill forts: Whitesheet Hill and Park Hill Camp. The gardens are home to a large collection of trees and shrubs from around the world.
Richard Colt Hoare, the grandson of Henry Hoare II, inherited Stourhead in 1783. He added the library wing to the mansion and in the garden was responsible for the building of the boathouse and the removal of several features that were not in keeping with the general classical and gothic styles (including a Turkish Tent). He also considerably enhanced the planting - the Temple of Apollo rises from a wooded slope, that was planted in Colt Hoare's time. With the antiquarian passion of the times, he had 400 ancient burial mounds dug up in order to inform his pioneering History of Ancient Wiltshire.