Sir Richard Colt Hoare was finally run to ground at Stourhead this weekend, with the assistance of the landscape, but also of three experts: Martin Papworth (the archaeology); Emma Blanshard (the Hoare family and the house and Emily Utgren (the planting and landscaping of the grounds).
Martin Papworth took us up to Whitesheet Hill above Stourhead where prehistory and Colt Hoare first collided. A multi-period prehistoric landscape, Whitesheet Hill provided just the sort of stimulus needed to Richard Colt Hoare’s enquiring mind: features clearly seemed to cut other features and hence represented different periods of activity. Many of the volunteers are now familiar with the grammar of prehistoric earthworks that occur on the chalk: causewayed camps and long barrows conjugated with the Neolithic, round barrows and cross dykes with the Bronze Age, etc.
After lunch Emily Blanshard sketched out the personal and family history, which together with the wider historical narrative (the Hoare banking fortune and the French Revoloution), left Richard Colt Hoare unable to continue his prolonged continental tour but with plenty of money and time to investigate the landscape closer to home – and to build an extremely large and comfortable library within which to work. Finally, Emily Utgren took us into the woodlands to show how the same care and intelligence that was applied to Colt Hoare’s archaeological investigations, building, sketching, etc. was also applied to his planting programme. A full day, with many suggestions for further reading and investigation.