England’s Stowe House gets amazing makeover

The newly restored State Library at Stowe House will be open to visitors in April. The neo-classical palace in Buckinghamshire has been described by the Prince of Wales as ‘one of Britain’s finest 18th-century houses’.

In 2002 the World Monuments Fund (WMF) included Stowe in their Watch List of endangered sites. They supported the restoration of the House by substantially funding the restoration of the Marble Saloon which has a 15-metre (57-ft) high dome. The saloon is one of the largest spaces to be found in any British country house. It is an oval version of the Pantheon in Rome and opened for view in 2005.

Stowe House was begun by Sir Richard Temple in 1676. It has 400 rooms and its front is 270 metres (880ft) wide. The Library was originally built as a ballroom in the 1740s. The room was stocked as a library during the 1790s in anticipation of a visit from George III. But the king never arrived at Stowe. The room has 750 mahogany bookshelves and 15,000 gold leaves were used in its original decoration.

From 16th-century sheep farmers to 19th-century dukes, the Temple family made their name by marrying heiresses and following their political ambitions. They were able to work their way up the title ladder and make their mark on north Buckinghamshire in an immense and long lasting way with the creation of Stowe. The history of the Stowe estate is a long one and its magnificence is still visible today, despite the decline of the family fortune.

In 1989, the world-renowned Gardens were handed over to the National Trust with a large endowment and their long term restoration programme was begun. The vistas were opened up, paths and temples restored, trees planted and maintained and, most important of all, the estate was made accessible to the 100,000 visitors they now receive every year.    

The north front and colonnades of the house, the south portico and pavilions as well as the Library and Marble Saloon are now renovated. The landscaped gardens measure 162 hectare (400 acres) and contain 40 temples and monuments.

Stowe House is open throughout the year, but closed Mon, Tue and some other days.  There is a 2pm tour most days when the house is open. Admission to the house costs £4.50 adults, £2.75 children, £13.50 family ticket.

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