Architect: Colen Campbell (1720-1724)
Photograph: E. Smith (1962)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library Photographs Collection
Stourhead was built about 1720-24 for the banker Henry Hoare. Its designer was Colen Campbell, champion of the Palladian style. Believing that Andrea Palladio was the true heir to the Roman architect Vitruvius, Campbell adapted the plan and elevations of Palladio’s Villa Emo, near Venice (begun 1564). Stourhead, therefore, is a Venetian villa adapted to an English setting.
Compared to a Baroque house, like Blenheim, Campbell’s design was very simple. Essentially a square block, there were no projections apart from the great portico, with its four great columns supporting the chaste pediment above. The roofline was flat, crowned by the long balustrade; only a few statues nudging above this strong horizontal. The walls themselves were mostly blank expanses, apart from the rusticated blocks of the lower storey. All was remarkably restrained.
The striking front of the house, as shown in this photograph, is a nineteenth-century creation. The deep portico, attic storey and entrance steps, were added in 1841. In fact, Stourhead has been much adapted. The house was extended with wings (1792-1804), housing a library and a picture gallery. In 1902, the central block of the house was gutted by fire, the new interiors loosely based on the original design. And, of course, the house was not originally fronted by this green expanse of lawns.