Wilton House | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Wilton House

nr Salisbury, UK

Sarah Roller

18 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Nigel Jarvis / Shutterstock

About Wilton House

Wilton House is a stately home designed in part by Inigo Jones: there are also extensive gardens and an adventure playground. It is located in Wilton, approximately 4 miles west of Salisbury, UK.

History of Wilton House

Before it was a private residence, there was a priory on the grounds, founded by King Egbert around 871 – over the following centuries, more and more lands were granted until its wealth meant there was a large abbey on the site. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537, King Henry VIII granted the remnants of the abbey and its attached estates to William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, around 1544.

Some have claimed that Hans Holbein worked on transforming the ruins of the abbey into a manor house but there seems little evidence for this. Inigo Jones, the famous Palladian architect, was employed in the 1630s to complete extensive work on the house and the then Queen, Henrietta Maria, took a real interest, becoming a frequent visitor to Wilton.

The Jones alterations saw the creation of seven grand state rooms: however, only one of these is still original, the rest having been consumed in a major fire in 1647. They remain extremely formal, covered in gilt and rich materials, and include some of Wilton’s most prominent paintings, including those by Rembrandt, van Dyck, Lely, Rubens and Reynolds.

Further work in the early 19th century saw the addition of Gothic details to the building, including the cloisters – by the time the architect, James Wyatt, had finished, Wilton House was said to almost have the feel of a Northern European hunting estate.

The house was opened to the general public in 1951, and remains one of the finest stately homes in England. The 18th Earl of Pembroke and his family occupy part of the house still today, and the 14,000 acre estate still provides employment for many.

Wilton House today

The house is open to visitors between May and September every year – it remains the residence of the Earl of Pembroke and his family.

The current Earl is also a car fanatic, and there is an impressive array of classic cars housed in the grounds too. The gardens make for a pleasant stroll: look out for the whispering spots where you can stand or sit at one end and hear someone whispering at the other, as well as the Japonnaise style bridges and lily ponds.

The large adventure playground remains a major draw for families with young children in particular and is a great way for them to let off steam after a house tour.

Getting to Wilton House

Wilton House is located just off the A36, on Minster Street (which becomes the A30), heading towards Shaftesbury. There is bus stop directly outside the main gates, with regular services to Salisbury, the villages towards Shaftesbury and Warminster, and the Park & Ride. The nearest train station is Salisbury.

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