Our independent walking holiday in Wessex in southern England visits this marvelous English country house
Wilton House is an English country house situated at Wilton near Salisbury in Wiltshire. It has been the country seat of the Earls of Pembroke for over 460 years. Wilton House opened its doors to the general public on the 1st May 1951 and this building with its history, architecture, art treasures and 21 acres of gardens and parkland has attracted visitors from all over the world.
Wilton House stands on the site of a 9th century nunnery founded by King Alfred. This, in turn, was replaced by a twelfth century Benedictine abbey which, with its surrounding lands, was surrendered at the time of the Dissolution of the monasteries, to Henry VIII, who gave them to William Herbert around 1542.
The title of the Earl of Pembroke was revived in favour of Sir William Herbert, whose father, Richard, was an illegitimate son of the 1st Earl of Pembroke of the house of Herbert. He had married Anne Parr, sister of Henry VIII's sixth wife, Catherine Parr, and was created Earl in 1551. The title has since been held by his descendants and occupants of Wilton House. William Alexander Sidney Herbert (b.1978) is the 18th Earl of Pembroke and 15th Earl of Montgomery.
In around 1632 Isaac De Caus began work to transform the gardens at Wilton House to include a variety of water features stretching over 300 metres across the river. Plans were also drawn up to extend the house to match the dimensions of the garden. A change in family fortunes forced a downscale of these plans.
John Webb completed the rebuilding of the house following a fire in 1647 which severely damaged the interior of the south range. The south front and State Rooms remain a testimony to his skill and the popularity of the Palladian style of architecture at that time. The Single and Double Cube Rooms are quite possibly the grandest rooms of this period in England.
The 9th Earl was an architect who, in 1737 built the Palladian Bridge spanning the River Nadder. Between 1801 and 1815 the eleventh Earl had cloisters designed on two levels, at the same time remodeling the north and west sides of the house and creating what is now the main entrance.
Between 1987 and 1992, the 17th Earl commissioned a major restoration project on the inside and outside of the building and to celebrate the completion of this scheme, a new Coat of Arms was carved to replace the much eroded one on the inside of the Clock tower.
Wilton House, with its splendid state rooms and landscaped parkland, has proved an ideal backdrop for films, TV and photography. Films shot here include Sense and Sensibility, The Madness of King George, Mrs. Brown, Pride and Prejudice and, most recently, The Young Victoria. Recent clients include the BBC, Channel 4, Dunhill, The Spirit of the Andes, Working Title, Vogue and Jack Wills.
Other places of interest on the Wonders of Wessex Walking Holiday: Salisbury - Shaftesbury - Tollard Royal - Old Sarum - Old Wardour Castle - Gold Hill - Larmer Tree Gardens - Ashmore - Cranborne Chase - Wessex - Woodford Valley - Stonehenge
East Front of Wilton House
Palladian Bridge over the river Nadder in Wilton House Gardens
Filming of Sense and Sensibility inside Wilton House