Stately Homes to visit in Wiltshire
Longleat House and Safari Park.
Wiltshire’s Premier Stately Home, and the seat of, the Marquesses of Bath. The house was built by Sir John Thynne and was designed by Robert Smythson, after Longleat Priory was destroyed by fire in 1567. It took 12 years to complete and is one of the finest examples of Elizabethan architecture in the country.
The first Stately Home to open commercially to the public in 1949 is not only world famous as an Elizabethan Country House, with 3 Mazes, and 1000 acres of Parkland Landscaped by Capability Brown. But also the first drive-through Safari Park outside Africa, opened in 1966. Today home to over 500 animals, Longleat works closely with the conservation of endangered wild animals.
Longleat is occupied by Alexander Thynn, the 7th Marquess of Bath and a direct descendant of Sir John, he passed the management of the business to his son Viscount Weymouth in 2010.
Daughter-in-Law Emma, Viscountess Weymouth, who was made a household name in 2019 as a contestant on the BBC’s “Strictly Come Dancing”, is a cook as well as a dancer.
The giant Victorian kitchens of Longleat House, where chefs and cooks have been creating meals for no fewer than 14 generations of the Thynn family and Royal visitors for over 400 years.
Inspired by this history Emma has turned the kitchens into an exciting attraction, by creating a selection of recipes and treats using the best of local produce, which visitors to Longleat can buy and savour.
Bowood House and Gardens. Home of the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.
The first Bowood House was built in 1725 on the site of a hunting lodge, by the former tenant Sir Orlando Bridgeman, 2nd Baronet, who had purchased the property from the Crown. The 2nd Earl was created Marquess of Lansdowne for negotiating peace with America after the War of independence. He furnished Bowood with superb collections of paintings and classical sculpture, and commissioned Robert Adam to decorate the grander rooms in Bowood and to add a magnificent orangery. Adam also built for the 1st Earl in the park a fine mausoleum, which is also Grade I listed.
In the 1770s the two parts of the house at Bowood, known as the "Big House" and the "Little House", were joined together by the construction of an enormous drawing room.
In World War I, an auxiliary Red Cross hospital was housed in the Orangery and during World War II, the Big House was occupied by a school, and then by the Royal Air Force.
Subsequently left empty, in 1955 it was so dilapidated that the 8th Marquess demolished it, employing architect F. Sortain Samuels to convert the Little House into a more comfortable home.
The Adam dining room was rescued by Lloyd's of London, now on the 11th floor of Lloyd’s current building in London. And a portico from the house was re-erected at Roath Court, Cardiff.
Today in addition to the House and Gardens being open to the general public, Bowood boasts a Golf Course, Spa and Adventure Playground for the younger generation.
Wilton House and Gardens. William Herbert, 18th Earl of Pembroke, and his family live in the house occupying about a third of the house privately.
Visitors to Wilton House comment on how welcoming the house is. Surely this is because Wilton has been a family home for over 450 years.
Since 1544 when the buildings and land were granted by Henry VIII to Sir William Herbert, Wilton House has been linked to the political and artistic circles of England, whilst at the same time providing employment and homes for estate workers.
This continues today but, Henry, the 17th Earl and Father to the current Earl, initiated major restoration and improvements, still ongoing and funded by Wilton House Trust. These have included the addition of several new gardens and the complete renovation of the Inigo Jones South Front, including all the state rooms. In 2010 another phase of restoration included the Dining Room and Wyatt Cloisters which received the HHA/Sotheby’s Restoration Award.