Stoke Place in Buckinghamshire was bought in 1764 by career soldier George Howard. Equerry to Queen Charlotte and well-liked by King George III, he progressed up the ranks to Field Marshal in 1793, having been knighted in 1774.
Howard began improving the house and garden as soon as he bought it. He employed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to lay out an informal lake and pleasure grounds near the house, and is believed to have employed the architect Stiff Ledbetter to extend the house. Brown’s account books record payments by Howard of £200, £400 and £200, in June 1765, March 1766 and May 1767, a typical pattern over a number of seasons. There were two key ornamental structures, the orangery and rotunda, possibly the work of Brown both now lost, the orangery from bomb damage in the Second World War and its remains have been cleared.
Howard died in 1796 and the estate passed to his grandson, Richard William Howard-Vyse, an army officer, MP, and Egyptologist, who lived at Stoke Place for almost 60 years, and in the 1810s-1820s made developments to the landscape. A second major phase of development of the gardens followed in the early C19 by Howard’s grandson with Head Gardener Mr Patrick, in which Brown’s lake was enlarged, kitchen gardens erected, and features and parkland added to the east and south. In 1833 it was reported that Mr. Patrick enlarged Brown’s water and used the spoil to undulate the ground, including earthing-up trees to create mounds. Pudding stone was used to create a rockwork feature at the lake edge, with planters and springs. The kitchen gardens and gardener’s cottage, enclosed by 4m high walls, were built in 1825. Lipscomb noted in 1847 how the pleasure grounds on the south front were ‘enlivened by a sheet of water’ and that on the lawn stood some ‘very remarkable cedars’, a species which grew well in the area.
Richard William died in 1853. By the 1930s the areas near the house contained various horticultural features in Victorian style, including intricate circular ‘basket beds’ scattered on the lawn below the terrace. In 1962 the last family owner, Major General Sir Richard Howard-Vyse, died. The property was bought by South Bucks District Council and it became a nursing home. In the 1990s it became a hotel.