Stoke Park Pavilions

Italianate Splendour in Rural Northamptonshire

Recently, the BBC website had a story about visitor numbers to England’s attractions and one part of the article listed sites with the fewest visitors. I was looking down the list to understand what type of places people didn’t like to see if we could possibly raise awareness. Little did I think that I would find Stoke Park Pavilions, near Stoke Bruerne in Northamptonshire, so low down on the number of visitors list. As the pavilions are less than 10 miles away from home it went to the top of my to do list.

Now, Stoke Park Pavilions are not new to me. I had cycled past the narrow, dead-end road leading to the site many times and had sometimes seen signs for them, which resulted in me looking them up on the internet. Then, a few years ago whilst walking in the area, our route crossed approach to the Pavilions, and we diverted down the lane to catch a glimpse. Prominent “Private Road” warning signs stopped us along the way, so we turned round and returned to our walking route.

Stoke Park Pavilions © essentially-england.comStoke Park Pavilions ©

The BBC story piqued my interest again, and my latest internet search found that the Stoke Park Pavilions opened on odd occasions during the year and that they were open from 2-6pm that week. How lucky was that!

It didn’t take us long to get there, and as we turned down the lane, we saw an A4 sized plastic sign saying, “Pavilions Open 2-6pm”, which was promising. Further down the road, the “Private Road” signs were still up, but we continued and saw even more “Private” signs. When we spotted a “Stoke Park Pavilions Parking” sign we felt a little happier although when the lane ended, we weren't quite sure where to leave the car. We parked it close to another car outside a large house, thinking that perhaps that car belonged to the caretaker.

The East Pavilion © essentially-england.comThe East Pavilion ©

Still not quite sure where to go, we squeezed through the gap between two large white gates to see the pavilions ahead of us, thinking that we would find someone soon, possibly in the pavilions themselves. But no, we were there completely on our own and free to walk around.

And what a wonderful place it was! The whole site had a very Italianate feel and reminded us of exploring parts of Pompeii.

But what are the Stoke Park Pavilions? Who built them and why?

The Colannade © essentially-england.comThe Colannade ©

Stoke Park Pavilions – A Brief History

During the 1540’s, the 400-acre Stoke Bruerne deer park became the property of the crown, and King Henry VIII regularly hunted here. It remained a Royal hunting ground until 1629, when King Charles I granted the park to his former secretary Sir Francis Crane, who was also the founder of Mortlake Tapestry Works in London.

Soon, an imposing Palladian-style country house - the first in England built in this style - replaced the old medieval hunting lodge. Its design is credited to the great Inigo Jones who was a fan of the famous Venetian architect Andrea Palladio. The striking building consisted of a central house with two matching pavilions connected by curving colonnades. Famous visitors to the house included King Charles I in 1635 and Sir Isaac Newton in 1672.

Inside the West Pavilion at Stoke Park © essentially-england.comInside the West Pavilion at Stoke Park ©

The house was destroyed by fire in 1886 and replaced with a fashionable Jacobean style building that did not sit uniformly between the two surviving pavilions but adjoined the back of the east pavilion. The house fell into decline and was commandeered by the Canadian Army during World War II. After the war, the house and pavilions stayed empty, and by 1953 the buildings were close to being condemned. They were eventually bought by a publishing family who pulled down the nineteenth century house and restored the pavilions.

The Pond and West Pavilion © essentially-england.comThe Pond and West Pavilion ©

What you get to see at the Stoke Park Pavilions is some of the earliest Palladian architecture in England. The terraced gardens, orchard area, and pond were beautifully kept and offered fantastic views out over parkland. The setting is stunning, and having it to ourselves to slowly wander around and explore was a treat. We could have easily spent hours just absorbing the beauty and quiet.

The Terraced Garden and East Pavilion © essentially-england.comThe Terraced Garden and East Pavilion ©

So why do Stoke Park Pavilions have so few visitors when they are, architecturally, very important buildings and sit in beautiful surroundings besides? We think it has to do with the limited number of days they’re open each year. Perhaps they would appear higher up the list if the number measured was number of visitors per day open. Whatever the reason, we’ve done our bit to help them up the visitor number table and we would strongly encourage you to go and explore.

To check opening dates and times please use the Stoke Park Pavilions website, and if I’ve read their website correctly, you may be able to visit at other times if you contact them beforehand.

Now I wonder what other attractions lower down the visitor number table will draw our attention…

Northamptonshire Holiday Cottages

Northamptonshire is a largely rural county in the centre of England, renowned for shoemaking, stunning countryside, and very pretty villages. It makes a great place for walking and cycling and is ideal for a relaxing holiday or short break.

Below, we've collected some holiday cottage ideas. Personally, I would love to stay in Stoke Bruerne, right next to the canal. Stoke Bruerne is a friendly, pretty village with a couple of pubs, an Indian restaurant, and easy walking from the door.

3 Canalside Cottages

Stoke Bruerne
Sleeps 4

Manor Farm House Cottage
Sleeps 4

4 Canalside Cottages

Stoke Bruerne
Sleeps 2

To browse holiday cottages in other parts of England click here, or you could use our search box.


Ready to learn more about England?
Return to the Northamptonshire page from our Stoke Park Pavilions page.