Set in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, Wilton House has belonged to the Pembroke family since the 16th century.
Explore the gardens which border the River Nadder. A 19th century three–arched loggia is sited near the exedra or whispering seat which marks the end of the beautiful herbaceous borders.
Discover the Japanese Garden which was created in 1990s and the William Pye water feature which was built to commemmorate the Millenium.
Lots of films have been made at Wilton – if you’ve been watching Bridgerton, you’ll recognise Wilton as the outside of the Duke of Hastings’ house.
The house and gardens can be closed at short notice so check the website before visiting.
Historic Houses members visit for free.
The first recorded building on the site of Wilton was a Priory founded by King Egbert c.871.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry gave the estate to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke c1544 who built a house on the site. The tower on the east façade survives from this period.
Wilton was inherited by Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke in 1630 on the death of his brother William. The 4th Earl, held the offices of Lord Chamberlain and Lord Warden of the Stanneries and his finances increased further by his second marriage to Anne Clifford, who had vast estates in the north of England.
Herbert decided to rebuild and extend the house, starting, as was usual in the 17th century, with the garden. It was designed by Isaac de Caus in 1615 under the supervision of Inigo Jones and as the area was flat, it was based on the Venetian gardens rather than the terraced gardens of Rome or Tuscany.
By the time the house was built in 1636, the Earl’s fortunes had considerably diminished. The house was much smaller than originally planned although the gardens were almost finished.
By examining the engraving of Hortus Penbrochianus by Peter Stent c.1640, the design of the original garden can be seen. A broad central axis led from the house, crossing a series of three rectangular gardens. Caus had an ingenious solution to the River Leat – rather than canalising it, Caus incorporated it into his design.
There was also a grotto which Lieutenant Hammond was shown by ‘the fat Dutch Keeper’: ‘That rare Water–worke now making, and continuing by this outlandish Engineer, for the singing, and chirping of Birdes, and other strange rarities, onely by that Element, the finishing which rare peece of Skill, with satisfaction to the engenioius Artist will cost (they say) a great Summe of Money.’
John Evelyn visited in July, 1654, he wrote: ‘The garden, heretofore esteemed the noblest in England, is a large handsome plain, with a grotto and waterworks, which might be made much more pleasant, were the river that passes through cleansed and raised; for all is effected by a mere force. It has a flower garden, not inelegant.’
Sadly, none of de Caus’s garden remains. The 9th Earl redesigned the grounds and gardens between 1733 and 1750, grassing over the parterres and building a Palladian bridge over the River Nadder.
Sir William Chambers designed the Casino on Temple Hill although this can only be seen in the distance as it is not open to the public.