Three miles west of the cathedral city of Salisbury, Wilton House has been the seat of the Herbert family, Earls of Pembroke, since the buildings of Wilton Abbey were granted in 1544 by Henry VIII to Sir William Herbert, together with extensive land across Wiltshire. The 1st Earl built a quadrangular mansion on the site and the present house carries this form. The de Caux garden scheme (1630s) for the 4th Earl stretched south across the river to the far hillside, incorporating a grotto, carved marble reliefs, statuary and elaborate water works.
The gardens visitors see today were laid out as naturalised parkland by the 9th Earl in the 1730s, with wide lawns, ancient Cedars of Lebanon, artificial enhancement of the River Nadder and the Palladian Bridge. East of the House are the re-sited Egyptian column, loggia, the Broad Walk and Whispering Seat, all part of the design by the 8th Earl’s wife in the early 1800s. The 17th Earl, a keen gardener, created the Japanese Water Gardens, the rose garden, a laburnum arch, and David Vicary’s 1970s formal fountain planting in the North Forecourt. Xa Tollemache designed the inner courtyard garden in 1996. The private gardens west of the House are laid to lawn with specimen trees, a formal Italianate garden, loggia, orangery, and the Holbein Porch. This beautiful area within the Park walls has been lived in since 2400 – 1500 BC (there is a bowl barrow to the south). The Romans left much evidence of their occupation, and the Benedictine nuns were followed by the Earls of Pembroke and their sometimes drastic clearance of the ground. What you see now is the uppermost layer of a great garden, under which lie thousands of years of lives and dreams, thoughts and plans, planting and growing.
Wilton, Salisbury SP2 0BJ,