West Woodhay House was built in 1635 by Sir Benjamin Rudyard, poet and wit, lawyer and Member of Parliament. The Rudyards (after whom Kipling was named) came from Staffordshire. Benjamin’s great friend, the 8th Earl of Pembroke, gained him the lucrative post of surveyor of the Court of Wards and Liveries and gave him the seat for Portsmouth. As a frequent visitor to Wilton, the Pembrokes’ house he would have seen lnigo Jones’s work there. Edward Carter, Inigo Jones’ deputy for the repair of Old St. Paul’s Cathedral, has been credited as the architect of the house but undoubtedly his mentor had knowledge of the work being undertaken.
The house was sold by the Rudyard family in 1710 to William Sloper, who rebuilt the parish church only a few yards to the south east of the house, thought to be designed bv Vanbrugh. In 1880 the beautiful facade of the house was Victorianised when purchased by William Cole, who added a huge additional wing with large gables on all façades. In 1883 the church was replaced with the very pretty Gothic one built 300 yards to the east of the house. The remains of the old church can still be seen today in the gardens. William’s grandson who inherited the estate was the famous practical joker Horace de Vere Cole, who sold it to his uncle Alfred Cole, who was sometime Governor of the Bank of England.
Henry Henderson, brother of the 1st Lord Faringdon purchased the house in 1920. Johnny Henderson carried out a superb transfiguration of the house in 1947, and returned it to its original 17th century size and shape and created the garden. His son, Harry and his wife Sarah moved into the house in 1995 and have made significant improvements to the gardens as described in the Gardens page.