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History and Heritage: Bowood House

Posted on May 11, 2015 by Admin

Bowood House is stunning country house set in the heart of Wiltshire and is currently home to Charles Maurice and Fiona, 9th Marquess and Marchioness of Lansdowne. The family have lived at Bowood House since 1972 and have transformed this Georgian country home into the beautiful attraction we see today.

The first house on the estate was built in the early 18th century by Sir Orlando Bridgeman, a British baronet and politician. Bridgeman purchased the property from the Crown but by just 1739, the house had been sold on due to his financial difficulties. The house remained in the hands of Richard Long, Bridgeman’s principal creditor, until the mid-18th century. The Bowood Estate was purchased by the first Earl of Shelburne, John Petty Fitzmaurice. It was under the Earl’s care that the property began to develop.

The second Earl and owner of the Bowood Estate, William Petty, was also Prime Minister between 1782 and 1783, and become Marquess of Lansdowne for his contributions to the War of Independence in. Petty made a number of further improvements and furnished Bowood House with superb decoration and contemporary style. An orangery was also added, along with a menagerie which housed the Earl’s wild and exotic animals.

The Gardens at Bowood House also have a rich history. The Gardens were designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown who added a number of features which visitors can still see today, such as the curved lake, the formal gardens and the arboretum. The beautiful Italian Terrace Gardens were commissioned by the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne and showcased the traditionally intricate designs which were well loved during this period.

Many Marquesses of Lansdowne followed and contributed to Bowood House and it’s collections throughout the 19th century, including the joining of ‘the big house’ and ‘the little house’ via a large drawing room. Bowood House was used during both World Wars, firstly as a Red Cross hospital in World War One. During the Second World War Bowood House was occupied by a school before being used by the Royal Air Force.

Following the end of World War Two, the house was left empty and ‘the big house’ was eventually demolished by the 8th Marquess, George John Charles, due to ‘economic reasons’, and instead made ‘the little house’ into a more comfortable home to keep the estate in the family. The remaining property was still large and kept a number of art works that had been collected over the generations who had occupied Bowood.

The house has been transformed into a popular visitor attraction by the 9th and current Marquess of Lansdowne and his family and for the first time in its history, the house has been permanently lived in. Bowood House offers a fantastic day out in Wiltshire for all the family with over 100 acres of beautiful parkland to explore.

Bowood House is open daily (within season) between 11am and 6pm.

Feeling tempted? Why not enjoy our Bowood House Breaktickets included!

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