Each year a further aspect of the history of Bowood and the Lansdowne family is explored in greater depth in our special exhibition. Drawing on our extensive archive and reserve collection the annual exhibition is created by our Curator Dr Cathryn Spence and displayed in the Orangery.
2021 marks the 65th anniversary of the demolition of Bowood’s ‘Big House’.
Bowood was one of 250 country houses of architectural importance demolished in the two decades following the end of World War II, the majority of which faced the bulldozers in the 1950s. In 1955, at the height of the demolitions, one country house was obliterated every five days. Despite very few objections at the time, the widespread destruction has led commentators to make comparisons with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
This exhibition will consider which factors forced the 8th Marquis of Lansdowne, and so many of his contemporaries, to sacrifice their family seats.
In 1972, the 8th Marquis retired to his beloved Scottish estate, Meikleour, leaving his son, Lord Shelburne, to make the best of a near bankrupt estate. Lord Shelburne (the present 9th Marquis of Lansdowne) strove forward with energy and enthusiasm to create one of the most popular visitor attractions in the country. Bowood recently welcomed its 5-millionth visitor. Lord and Lady Lansdowne understood that to survive they had to diversify. They moved away from farming, opening a championship golf course, conference centre and, in 2009, a hotel and spa.
What proved to be a difficult decision for the 8th Marquis of Lansdowne led to the remarkable renaissance of Bowood under the guardianship of the 9th Marquis and Marchioness. However, threats to Bowood, and to all country house estates open to the public, continue to this day. Bowood relies on visitors for its survival. The impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns has once again left the Estate financially exposed. It is thanks to the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund that Bowood is able to open for the current season.
Bowood House & Gardens is now closed and will reopen on the 1st April 2022.