Bowood House and Gardens

  • 4 June 2021 4:54 pm


The grounds have been developed over the years to become one of the special glories of Bowood, encompassing almost every phase of English garden design from the early Georgian period onwards. The present Marquis of Lansdowne opened the house and gardens to the public in 1975. He has maintained and improved Bowood’s many magnificent features over the last 30 years, initiating major replanting schemes and introducing new plantings, such as the daffodils in Lake Field and the tree ferns in the Rhododendron Walks.



The park remains much as ‘Capability’ Brown intended, with a fine lake, gently sloping lawns and drifts of trees. The late 18th century ‘Picturesque’ rockwork valley remains below the lake dam, incorporating the cascade and caves. Closer to the house are the great 19th-century Italianate terraces: originally lying in the angle between the Big and Little Houses, they now form the south front to the house.
The Pleasure Grounds, including the pinetum and arboretum, can be explored throughout the 7-month open season. The Rhododendron Walks, on the hill to the southwest of the house, now cover some 60acres and are only open to visitors during the flowering season. All are maintained to the highest standard and little has changed since these great gardens were laid out.





The first house at Bowood was built c.1725, on the site of a hunting lodge in the former Royal Forest of Chippenham. The house and park were bought by the 1st Earl in 1754, who employed architect Henry Keene to extend the house, including an imposing portico, and to build an extensive E-shaped service wing behind it.


Soon after his father’s death, the 2nd Earl (1737–1805) commissioned the Adam Brothers to decorate the important rooms and to screen the service courts with a grand orangery. An Adam mausoleum for the 1st Earl was also constructed in the park. At the same time, ‘Capability’ Brown was employed to remove the earlier semi-formal gardens and create an open, gentle landscape, with a sinuous lake and belts of trees, all typical of his style. A ha-ha was constructed near the house and a ‘pleasure ground’, for interesting trees and shrubs, was formed behind the house.


In the 1770s, the two parts of the house at Bowood (the ‘Big House’ and the ‘Little house’) were joined together by the building of an enormous drawing room. During the following decade, a ‘Picturesque’ rockwork garden, with a beautiful cascade, grottoes and a hermit’s cave, was formed at the head of the lake.


The 2nd Earl, Prime Minister from 1782 to 1783, was created Marquess of Lansdowne for negotiating peace with America after the War of Independence. He furnished Bowood and his London Home, Lansdowne House, with superb collections of paintings, furniture and Classical sculpture.

His father having died deeply in debt, the 2nd Marquess (1765–1809) stayed away from Bowood after the contents were sold. It was the 3rd Marquess (1780–1863), Chancellor of the Exchequer at 25, who restored the house, commissioning C.R.Cockerell to design the chapel and alter the library, and Sir Charles Barry to build the clock tower. The famous terrace gardens also date to this period as do the pinetum and arboretum in the Pleasure Grounds and the first planting of rhododendrons.

A distinguished statesman, the 3rd Marquess served in the House of Lords under eight prime ministers, and formed another great collection of paintings and sculpture, rivalling those of his father. A number of these works are seen at Bowood today.

The 4th Marquess (1816–1866) married Emily de Flahault, granddaughter of Prince Talleyrand and daughter of the Comte de Flahault who was Napoleon’s aide de camp; and it was through this connection that the fascinating Napoleonic Collection at Bowood came into the family. The 4th Marquess was responsible for having the small Doric Temple removed from the Pleasure Grounds to the far side of the lake [illus].

When the 5th Marquess (1845–1927) succeeded, the family fortunes were again in decline. He became Governor-General of Canada and Viceroy of India. On his return to Bowood in 1894, the Big House was used only for entertaining and the family lived in the Little House. The situation remained unchanged during the life of the 6th Marquess (1872–1936) and up until the Second World War.
Both the 7th Marquess and his brother were killed in action in 1944, the title and property passing to their cousin. During the War, the Big House was occupied by a school, then by the RAF. Afterwards, it was left empty, and by 1955 it was so dilapidated that the 8th Marquess decided to demolish it, employing architect F. Sortain Samuels to convert the Little House into a more comfortable home.
Due to open on May 1st 2009 the new hotel & spa will have 43 en-suite bedrooms, including six luxury suites, and will adjoin the existing Bowood Golf & Country Club. There will be an 80 seat restaurant, bar and two lounges with open wood burning fires.

Connecting the hotel with the golf and country club, the health club will feature a 18×6 metre swimming pool; gym; rock sauna; crystal steam room and aromatherapy showers. A range of beauty and health treatments will also be available to hotel guests in their own rooms. All rooms will have plasma screen televisions, internet access and Wi-Fi.

Lord Lansdowne, owner of the Bowood Estate, said: “The construction of the hotel and health club will add enormously to the range of facilities we are able to offer at Bowood.

“The hotel and health club is the missing piece of our jigsaw and will enable us to offer guests the opportunity to stay in quality accommodation in beautiful surroundings.

“Bowood is truly an enchanted oasis. Its stunning facilities will also provide the hotel with unlimited opportunities. Fishing, archery, garden tours, walking trails and golfing being among our many attractions, Bowood will increasingly become an outstanding destination in the south west for corporate days, exclusive conferencing, wedding celebrations, weekend breaks and rural escapes.”

A key element of the development will be its use of a Biomass system to provide hot water and heating for the hotel and the neighbouring golf & country club.

Timber thinnings from the estate will be converted into wood chips to fuel the eco friendly biomass heating system. Wood fuel is carbon neutral which helps protect the environment.

The perfect blend for weddings in Wiltshire; beautiful Wiltshire countryside, luxury banqueting facilities for up to 200 guests, wedding licence, superb cuisine, attentive service, dedicated wedding team and our easy to budget all-inclusive packages make Bowood the area’s favourite wedding venue.

Wedding receptions are a speciality at Bowood Golf & Country Club. In such a stunning location, the stage is set for an unforgettable day whether you are looking to stage weddings in Wiltshire or just an evening wedding celebration in Wiltshire. All arrangements are made through our dedicated hospitality department to make certain your every need is met. Advice on menus, wines, room layouts, floral decorations and musical entertainment is available along with announcements, a cake stand, table linen and photography. The Kerry Suite, with its stylish cocktail bar and enchanting enclosed garden, is a beautiful room for your special day.

Bowood Golf & Country Club the top weddings venue in Wiltshire is conveniently located in the M4 corridor close to the counties of Avon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, and Somerset. Away from it all in a beautiful tranquil setting, yet less than an hour from Bristol, Bath, Gloucester & Swindon and just minutes from Calne, Chippenham, Devizes, Marlborough, Melksham & Trowbridge.

The Ceremony
The licensed rooms are the Fitzmaurice Room and the Clanmaurice Room, all of which have been beautifully decorated by Lady Lansdowne. Flowers can be organised through our Club Florist and a facility for providing music can be arranged.

Number of Guests
The numbers of guests that can be accommodated at the ceremony (including the Registrars) are as follows:

Fitzmaurice Room: 52
Clanmaurice Room: 62

The Reception
We can cater for up to 200 guests in the Kerry Suite.

Our objective is to give you everything you need on your special day. Menu requirements and advice on wines, champagnes and any other beverages can be discussed in detail once you have made the initial booking.

Wedding Menu 2009/10

The Kerry Suite
This purpose built suite, complete with full air conditioning, provides an ideal location for the perfect wedding. With its ability to be divided into up to three individually sized separate rooms, the flexibility is offered to accommodate a wide range of wedding breakfasts and evening celebrations. Having its own private bar facilities, seclusion and privacy are assured, adding to the atmosphere of the day.

Other Information
To ensure you have a perfect day, we will arrange:

A red carpet welcome for the bride and groom.
A glass of complimentary champagne for the bride and groom on arrival.
Toastmaster announcements by our Banqueting Manager.
A choice of round or square cake stand and ornamental knife.
Advice on formalities, room layout, table linen, menu and wine selection.
For information on our wedding facilities, please call01249 – 822228 or e-mail [email protected]

For more information or to discuss your plans contact us by clicking here