Bowood House

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Bowood House from Morris's County Seats (1880). The block on the right is the "Big House", which has been demolished. The wing on the left, starting with the short tower, remains.

Bowood is a Georgian country house set in superb grounds fashioned by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. It is located halfway between Calne and Chippenham, Wiltshire, England.

The first house at Bowood was built circa 1725 on the site of a hunting lodge. The house and park were bought in 1754 by the first Earl of Shelburne, who employed architect Henry Keene to extend the house. The 2nd Earl, Prime Minister from 1782 to 1783, was created Marquess of Lansdowne for negotiating peace with America after the War of Independence. He furnished Bowood and his London home, Lansdowne House, 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, as well as a small menagerie for wild animals where a leopard and an orangutan were kept in the 18th century. Adam also built a fine mausoleum for the 1st Earl in the park.

In the 1770s the two parts of the house at Bowood (the 'Big House' and the 'Little House') were joined together by the construction of an enormous drawing room. During World War II, the Big House was first occupied by a school, then by the Royal Air Force. Afterwards it was left empty, and by 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.

Bowood is one of 'Capability' Brown's finest parks. Laid out over 2,000 acres (8 km²) in the 1760s, it replaced an earlier, more formal garden of avenues and wildernesses. Brown's design encompasses a sinuous lake, with lawns sloping gently down from the house, and drifts of mature trees. Brown planted an arboretum of rare trees in the Pleasure Grounds behind the walled garden, and these were added to in the mid-19th century when a pinetum was begun. It was at about this time that the Doric Temple, originally standing in the Pleasure Grounds, was moved to its present position beside the lake.

The great Italianate terraces on the south front of the house were commissioned by the 3rd Marquess. The Upper Terrace, by Sir Robert Smirke, was completed in 1818, and the Lower, by George Kennedy, was added in 1851. Originally planted with hundreds of thousands of annuals in intricate designs, the parterres are now more simply planted.

Bowood House is the stately home of the Lansdowne family and has been the residence of:

The gardens were formed by Capability Brown, who extended a pond into a large lake. He also created a grotto with waterfalls and artificial caves, as well as the facade of a Doric temple.

The 'big house' was demolished in 1955 for economic reasons. However, the remaining house is still large, and the front 'wing' is open to the public with rooms, paintings and scultpure on display. One of the rooms was the laboratory of Joseph Priestley, who discovered oxygen there on August 1 1774.

Also on the grounds is an adventure playground for children aged 12 and under.

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