The Ward Family Becomes Bowood's Five Millionth Visitor
Last Thursday stood out from any other of the Ward family’s weekly visits to Bowood House & Gardens over the past 14 years. A wonderful surprise awaited season ticket holders, Denise and Ian Ward of Devizes when they arrived at Bowood with grandsons, Thomas (9) and Jack (7) as the five millionth visitor since Bowood House & Gardens’ opened to the public in 1975. They were then presented with a complimentary lifetime family season ticket by the Marquis of Lansdowne.
‘The boys were so excited and thrilled by all that happened on Thursday; having their picture taken and shaking hands with Lord Lansdowne definitely made last week’s visit one that they will never forget,” comments Denise Ward.
Looking back on how they first came to visit Bowood as a family, Mrs. Ward adds, “When my first grandchild was born, I was determined to spend proper time with him and so I became self-employed. We started to bring him to Bowood every Thursday once he was a toddler. My husband then also switched his work towards a flexi-time arrangement. Little did we know that we would go on to have seven grandchildren who would each deserve the same attention!
‘I reckon we must have visited Bowood on over 400 occasions - being a season ticket holder made total sense! It has proved incredible value for our family.
‘Our eldest is now 19 so you could say his childhood playtime ran its complete course at Bowood! Another grandchild is about to go to secondary school which will make it five in total who have ‘graduated’ from the Adventure Playground.
‘There’s lots to discover outdoors and we will still come in the rain! We also head into the House as I like to make sure that they enjoy learning too.’
Lord Lansdowne opened Bowood House & Gardens (between Calne and Chippenham, Wiltshire), to the public in 1975. Initially welcoming 18,000 people in that first year, some 120,000 visitors – from toddlers to senior citizens – are now attracted annually.
The Adventure Playground (for children aged up to 12 years) was opened in 1976, since when almost 50,000 children have visited each year. The life-size pirates’ galleon and drop slide (made from Estate timber), dare-devil swings and challenging slides continue to be as popular today as they were 43 years ago. Many attractions have since been added including the Partridge Play Pen, Soft Play, and Tractor Ted Little Farm, all set within Capability Brown’s 2,000-acre Park.
Two thirds of the House are open to the public, including the Laboratory (where Dr Joseph Priestley discovered oxygen gas in 1774) and several floors of Exhibition Rooms (where an intriguing display of art, antiques and artefacts chart the life and times of the Lansdowne family, from the Georgian period onwards). Today, Bowood is considered to be one of the country’s most popular Historic Houses.
With their lifetime family season ticket in hand, Denise Ward suggested to Thomas and Jack that they might find themselves bringing their own children to play at Bowood one day. ‘They really did look totally baffled at that idea!’
Bowood House & Gardens is open daily (11am-6pm) through to Sunday 3rd November 2019
Header image: left to right: Ian Ward, Lord Lansdowne and Denise Ward with Thomas and Jack
Historic Houses members can visit Bowood House & Gardens three times per calendar year for free.
You can find out more about Bowood House and Gardens here.