The Stourton family had lived in the Stourhead estate for 700 hundred years when they sold it to Henry Hoare I, son of wealthy banker Sir Richard Hoare in 1717. The original manor house was torn down and Colen Campbell was employed to build the new one, one of the first of its kind. Over the next 200 years the Hoare family collected many heirlooms, including a large library and art collection, untill Henry Hugh Arthur Hoare, who had no heir, gave the house to the National Trust in 1947.
The gardens, designed by Henry Hoare II and laid between 1741 and 1780, are a clasical 18th century design set around a large artificial lake and include a number of temples designed to show off the Hoare family's wealth. On a hill overlooking the gardens is an obelisk and King Alfred's Tower, a 50 metre brick folly designed by Henry Flitcroft in 1772. Amoungst the woodland surrounding the site there are also 2 iron age hill forts, Whitesheet Hill and Park Hill Camp. The gardens are home to a large collection of trees and shrubs from around the world.