Behind the scenes at Stowe House

Country: United Kingdom
City: Buckingham
Institution Type: Historic/Heritage
Year Founded: 1683

Stowe House is a grand 18th century home in Buckinghamshire that welcomes visitors year-round. Yet, it also serves as a functioning school, meaning the visitor offering had to tell the story of Stowe House and guide guests around the site in harmony with the day-to-day operation of the school. Further, while the rooms of Stowe House have been restored to their 18th century glory, most remain largely empty, as all the original furniture was sold in auction in 1923.

The combination of factors made interpreting the site a challenge, particularly when trying to bring Stowe House’s fascinating stories to life and construe its complex history into a cohesive, engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages.

Content partner Antenna International came on board to develop a multimedia tour that would successfully address the challenges at hand.

To start, the team navigated how to create an offering that would enable visitors to see beyond Stowe House’s current set-up as a school and seamlessly experience its more than 300 years of history.

Antenna sat down with the Stowe House team to determine a tour route that wouldn’t disrupt the daily function of the school. From there, Antenna’s creative team – along with filmmakers and historians, including Oliver Cox, acclaimed Heritage Engagement Fellow at University of Oxford – identified engaging stories that brought the three unique chapters of the house’s history to life: its origins as home to one of England’s most powerful families, the Temple-Grenvilles; the subsequent downfall of the Temple Grenvilles and eventual abandonment of Stowe House; and its rescue and rebirth as a progressive public school.

They leveraged the details of the house to tell these stories and provide insight into the mentality of the Temple-Grenvilles and other enlightened aristocrats of their time. A painting on the wall, for example, may seem unassuming. But the tour explains why the Tempille-Grenvilles would have selected it as a way to demonstrate their wealth, status and taste.

The team also worked diligently to incorporate the intricate details of the house into the tour and direct visitors to notice and appreciate them – from the ornate, gilded ceiling of the Blue Room, to the stunning handmade plaster ‘Roman Triumph’ frieze that runs along the dome of the Marble Saloon.

Using documentary style films and clear, engaging narration, the tour helps visitors discover the artistry of a past age and educate them on how it continues to influence architecture and design today. Paying tribute to the house’s ongoing restoration through the tour provided an additional benefit of promoting and bolstering the value of the artisanal skills of local craftspeople.

Next, the team had to figure out how to make the tour appealing to young visitors. They decided to develop a family-focused tour that featured handmade 2-D films and interactive components, such as games and quizzes that would generate interest and interaction across generations.

The result is two engaging multimedia tours – an adult tour and a family tour – that utilize the house as a springboard to educate and inspire visitors to discuss the politics, design and tradition of times gone by, and examine how they continue to influence our lives today.

“This tour is a truly immersive and enlightening experience that encourages visitors to find beauty in their own lives. Architecture, art and design are part of an aesthetic process that we can all, even in small ways, enjoy and take part in,” said Adam White, senior content director at Antenna International, who worked on the Stowe House project.

Interested in learning more about this and other Antenna International stories? Click here to read about other client projects.