If anyone is looking for a good family day out, my Mum, my two Sisters and I had a really great day out at Bowood House and Gardens earlier this year.
The only downside was that we had to contend with a torrential downpour whilst we were exploring, but we all still really enjoyed ourselves! We didn’t get to spend as much time exploring the gardens as we had hoped due to the awful weather so I think we will be re-visiting in the future so we can take full advantage! On the plus side it meant the house and gardens were really quiet!
Bowood House and Gardens is in Wiltshire and is currently home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.
The house sits inside 100 acres of beautifully landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland and has been home to the Lansdowne family since the 1st Earl of Shelburne purchased it in 1754.
Over half of the house is open to visitors, with the family still living in the remainder. The places you can visit within the house include:
Originally designed as a large conservatory, the Orangery is now primarily a picture gallery, containing the remaining parts of the two great Lansdowne Collections of paintings and sculpture.
Opposite the Orangery entrance are the great doors to the Chapel. Created in the early 19th century for the 3rd Marquess by C.R.Cockerell, the Chapel is still used for special services and concerts.
Through the doors at the east end of the Orangery is a small room known as the Laboratory. Here, scientist Dr Joseph Priestley, tutor to the 1st Marquess’ two sons, discovered oxygen in 1774! In those days the room was full of scientific equipment but unfortunately all were sold when the 1st Marquess died.
It was in this room that the great Bowood house parties would meet after dinner to read, play chess, sing, and talk about politics and other topics of the day.
The Sculpture Gallery
Through a small entrance hall at the other end of the Orangery is the Sculpture Gallery, created by the present Marquis of Lansdowne in 1980. Designed originally as a menagerie or zoo for wild animals, a leopard and an orangutan were kept here in the 18th century! Nowadays, the gallery houses pieces from the Lansdowne sculpture collections.
The Exhibition Rooms
A staircase at the west end of this gallery leads to the exhibition room which displays examples of 18th-century and 19th-century costumes. The Victorian Room holds (among other memorabilia of the period) Queen Victoria’s wedding chair!
Also on show in the Top Exhibition Room are the Keith Jewellery Collection, family miniatures, and the Napoleonic Collection. The Napoleonic Collection also came into the family via the 4th Marchioness; it includes Napoleon’s death mask, pieces of gilded Imperial Sèvres porcelain and other unusual treasures, such as Napoleon’s handkerchief!
If you can, try and get on one of the scheduled monthly tours of the Private Walled Gardens.
Bowood’s Gardens have beautiful sloping lawns stretching down to the lake. The park includes the Cascade, Doric Temple, Terrace Gardens and for children, the fantastic Adventure Playground!
Sorry for the lack of garden pictures, the rain was so bad I was worried about the welfare of my lovely phone!
A separate Woodland Garden, which hosts Rhododendrons and Azaleas, is open to the public between April and early June every year, according to the flowering season.
There is an on-site cafe called the Treehouse Cafe which serves lovely paninis and delicious homemade cakes! Plus lovely hot chocolates and coffees which were greatly appreciated after being soaked through to the skin! British weather hey???
Adult ticket prices are £12.50 and child prices are £7.50 – £9.50, and family tickets are also available.
Bowood House and Gardens opens again on the 1st April – choose your visiting dates wisely though as it’s not called “April showers” for no reason!