The Salisbury Branch of the English-Speaking Union had another busy week. First they were treated to a talk entitled “Stourhead, the creation of the landscape” by Tom Burr who has worked for The National Trust, both as an employee and a volunteer since 1963. He first visited Stourhead garden when he was 14 and it has been a passion of his ever since. The talk covered many features of the estate, all were illustrated by beautiful slides and a few are described below.
The original house was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell, leaving only fishpond’s and the estate bought by Sir Richard Hoare, then Lord Mayor of London, in 1704. He built Stourhead House but died in 1725, a year after it was completed. All subsequent male members of the Hoare family have been named Henry. Henry Hoare II, born in 1705 did not move to Stourhead until his mother’s death in 1741; his wife Anne died two years later leaving him with a son of 13 and daughters of 11 and 6. He created pleasure grounds out of the medieval fishponds including a 7 metre dam, also in 1746 an obelisk of Chilmark stone in memory of his father and a terrace to it “lined with sombre fir” which was the origin of the “Fir walk”. The Pantheon was built in 1753; recently that provided a perfect sounding board for the Darlington String Quartet and subsequent musical groups that can be heard all over the gardens when they play in front of it. The Bristol Cross had been given to the city of Bristol in 15th Century to commemorate the City’s charter given by King Edward 3rd; dubbed a ruinous and superstitious relic it was removed from Bristol in the Middle Ages as an “obstruction to traffic”! It had been altered in the 1660s to display statues of monarchs who were benefactors to the City: King John, Henry III, Edward I, Henry VI, Elizabeth, James and Charles I and was gifted by Dean Barton, whose brother was Rector of Stourton, to Henry Hoare in 1765. It was restored in 1981 at a cost of £34,000. The Druid’s Cell is all that remains of the Hermitage; it was built in 1771 for a non-existent hermit, dismantled in 1814 and reopened in 1979. Alfred’s Tower was built in 1772 out of gratitude to George 3rd and in recognition of his recovery from madness. It marks the spot he set his Standard in 899 and defeated the Danes at the Battle of Eddington. The audience enjoyed the talk and many resolved to go and see Stourhead for themselves.
Then, on 18th January the successful teams from the Branch heats came together at Bishop Wordsworth’s School to compete against each other for the privilege of representing Salisbury and South Wiltshire Branch of the English-Speaking Union at the Regional Finals to be held at Badminton School, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol on 3rd March 2019. The teams competing were two from South Wilts Grammar School, one from Ryde School, IOW, one from St Mary’s Independent School, Southampton and one from Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury. As always this was a very spirited competition, competitive but in a friendly atmosphere and the Speakers in particular had clearly learnt a lot from their heats and were able to be more relaxed and erudite. In the end similar to their heats South Wilts Grammar School shone through taking both the Winners award and that of Runners Up. The judges admitted it was a close run competition with very little dividing the eventual result. Just the winners, South Wilts Grammar School Team Olivia will go through to the Regional Finals. The certificate for Best Chair went to Lamar Mukundi from St Mary’s, for Best Speaker went to Daisy Dyer, Ryde School, for Best Questioner went to Bronwyn James, St Mary’s and Outstanding Personality to Olivia Clinch, South Wilts Grammar School. Bishop Wordsworth’s School hosted the event, providing refreshments for a larger than usual audience. It was so nice to see so many parents making the time to be there in support of their teams and particular thanks go to Ryde School who journey all the way from The Isle of Wight to compete. Good luck to South Wilts Grammar School Team Olivia at the Regional Final.