A visit to Charlecote Park for an afternoon visit to this National Trust property in Warwickshire. Near Stratford-upon-Avon. A deer park with a country house in the middle of it.
Charlecote Park (grid reference SP263564) is a grand 16th-century country house, surrounded by its own deer park, on the banks of the River Avon near Wellesbourne, about 4 miles (6 km) east of Stratford-upon-Avon and 5.5 miles (9 km) south of Warwick, Warwickshire, England. It has been administered by the National Trust since 1946 and is open to the public. It is a Grade I listed building.
The Lucy family owned the land since 1247. Charlecote Park was built in 1558 by Sir Thomas Lucy, and Queen Elizabeth I stayed in the room that is now the drawing room. Although the general outline of the Elizabethan house remains, nowadays it is in fact mostly Victorian. Successive generations of the Lucy family had modified Charlecote Park over the centuries, but in 1823, George Hammond Lucy (High Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1831) inherited the house and set about recreating the house in its original style.
Charlecote Park covers 185 acres (75 ha), backing on to the River Avon. William Shakespeare has been alleged to have poached rabbits and deer in the park as a young man and been brought before magistrates as a result.
From 1605 to 1640 the house was organised by Sir Thomas Lucy. He had twelve children with Lady Alice Lucy who ran the house after he died. She was known for her piety and distributing alms to the poor each Christmas. Her eldest three sons inherited the house in turn and it then fell to her grandchild Sir Davenport Lucy.
In the Tudor great hall, the 1680 painting Charlecote Park by Sir Godfrey Kneller, is said to be one of the earliest depictions of a black presence in the West Midlands (excluding Roman legionnaires). The painting, of Captain Thomas Lucy, shows a black boy in the background dressed in a blue livery coat and red stockings and wearing a gleaming, metal collar around his neck. The National Trust’s Charlecote brochure describes the boy as a "black page boy". In 1735 a black child called Philip Lucy was baptised at Charlecote.
The lands immediately adjoining the house were further landscaped by Capability Brown in about 1760. This resulted in Charlecote becoming a hostelry destination for notable tourists to Stratford from the late 17th to mid-18th century, including Washington Irving (1818), Sir Walter Scott (1828) and Nathaniel Hawthorn (c 1850).
Charlecote was inherited in 1823 by George Hammond Lucy (d 1845), who married Mary Elizabeth Williams of Bodelwyddan Castle, from who’s extensive diaries the current "behind the scenes of Victorian Charlecote" are based upon. GH Lucy’s second son Henry inherited the estate from his elder brother in 1847. After the deaths of both Mary Elizabeth and Henry in 1890, the house was rented out by Henry’s eldest daughter and heiress, Ada Christina (d 1943). She had married Sir Henry Ramsay-Fairfax, (d 1944), a line of the Fairfax Baronets, who on marriage assumed the name Fairfax-Lucy.
From this point onwards, the family began selling off parts of the outlying estate to fund their extensive lifestyle, and post-World War II in 1946, Sir Montgomerie Fairfax-Lucy, who had inherited the residual estate from his mother Ada, presented Charlecote to the National Trust in-lieu of death duties. Sir Montgomerie was succeeded in 1965 by his brother, Sir Brian, whose wife, Lady Alice, researched the history of Charlecote, and assisted the National Trust with the restoration of the house.
Charlecote Park House is a Grade I Listed Building
SP2556 CHARLECOTE PARK
1901-1/10/19 Charlecote Park
(Formerly Listed as:
Charlecote Park House)
Formerly known as: Charlecote Hall.
Country house. Begun 1558; extended C19. Partly restored and
extended, including east range, 1829-34 by CS Smith;
north-east wing rebuilt and south wing extended 1847-67 by
John Gibson. For George and Mary Elizabeth Lucy.
MATERIALS: brick, that remaining from original building has
diapering in vitrified headers, but much has been replaced in
C19; ashlar dressings; tile roof with brick stacks with
octagonal ashlar shafts and caps.
PLAN: U-plan facing east, with later west range and south
EXTERIOR: east entrance front of 2 storeys with attic;
3-window range with long gabled projecting wings. Ashlar
plinth, continuous drip courses and coped gables with finials,
sections of strapwork balustrading between gables; quoins.
2-storey ashlar porch has round-headed entrance with flanking
pairs of Ionic pilasters and entablature, round-headed
entrance has panelled jambs, impost course and arch with lion
mask to key and 2 voussoirs, strapwork spandrels and stained
glass to fanlight over paired 4-panel doors; first floor has
Arms of Elizabeth I below projecting ovolo-moulded
cross-mullion window, with flanking pairs of Composite
detached columns; top balustrade with symmetrical balusters
supports Catherine wheel and heraldic beasts holding spears;
original diapered brick to returns.
3-light mullioned and transomed window to each floor to left,
that to first floor with strapwork apron. Large canted bay
window to right of 1:3:1 transomed lights with pierced
rosettes to parapet modelled on that to gatehouse (qv) and
flanked by cross-mullioned windows, all with moulded reveals
and small-paned sashes; C19 gables have 3-light
ovolo-mullioned windows with leaded glazing.
Wings similar, with 2 gables to 5-window inner returns,
ovolo-moulded cross-mullioned windows. Wing to south has much
diaper brickwork and stair window with strapwork apron.
East gable ends have 2-storey canted bay windows dated 1852 to
strapwork panels with Lucy Arms between 1:3:1-light transomed
windows; 3-light attic windows, that to north has patch of
reconstructed diaper brickwork to left.
Octagonal stair turrets to outer angles with 2-light windows,
top entablatures and ogival caps with wind vanes, that to
south mostly original, that to north with round-headed
entrance with enriched key block over studded plank door.
North side has turret to each end, that to west is wholly C19;
3 gables with external stacks with clustered shafts between;
cross-mullioned windows and 3-light transomed stair window on
strapwork apron; 2-light single-chamfered mullioned windows to
Single-storey east range of blue brick has 2 bay windows with
octagonal pinnacles with pepper-pot finials and arcaded
balustrades over 1:4:1-light transomed windows; central panel
with Lucy Arms in strapwork setting has date 1833; coped
parapet with 3 gables with lights; returns similar with
3-light transomed windows.
Range behind has 3 renewed central gables and 2 lateral stacks
each with 6 shafts; gable to each end, that to south over
Tudor-arched verandah with arcaded balustrade to central arch
and above, entrance behind arch to left with half-glazed door,
blocked arch to right; first floor with cross-mullioned window
and blocked window, turret to right is wholly C19. South
return has cross-mullioned window to each floor and external
stack with clustered shafts.
South-west wing of 2 storeys; west side is a 7-window range;
recessed block to north end has window to each floor, the next
4 windows between octagonal pinnacles; gabled end breaks
forward under gable with turret to angle; rosette balustrade;
stacks have diagonal brick shafts, gable has lozenge with Lucy
Arms impaling Williams Arms (for Mary Elizabeth Lucy).
Cross-mullioned windows, but 2 southern ground-floor windows
are 3-light and transomed.
South end 4-window range between turrets has cross-mullioned
windows, but each end of first floor has bracketed oriel with
strapwork apron with Lucy/Williams Arms in lozenge and dated
1866, rosette balustrade with to each end a gable with 2-light
single-chamfered mullioned window with label, and 3 similar
windows to each turret, one to each floor.
East side has 3-window range with recessed range to right.
South end has Tudor-arched entrance and 3-light transomed
window, cross-mullioned window and 3-light transomed window to
first floor and gable with lozenge to south end; gable to
full-height kitchen to north has octagonal pinnacles flanking
4-light transomed window and gable above with square panel
with Lucy/Williams Arms to shield; recessed part to north has
loggia with entrance and flanking windows, to left a
single-storey re-entrant block with cross-mullioned windows;
first floor has 5 small sashed windows. South side of
south-east wing has varied brickwork with mullioned and
transomed windows, 2 external stacks and 2 gables with 3-light
INTERIOR: great hall remodelled by Willement with wood-grained
plaster ceiling with 4-centred ribs and Tudor rose bosses;
armorial glass attributed to Eiffler, restored and extended by
Willement; wainscoting and panelled doors; ashlar fireplace
with paired reeded pilasters and strapwork to entablature, and
fire-dogs; white and pink marble floor, Italian, 1845.
Dining room and library in west wing have rich wood panelling
by JM Willcox of Warwick and strapwork cornices, and strapwork
ceilings with pendants; wallpaper by Willement; dining room
has richly carved buffet, 1858, by Willcox and simple coloured
marble fireplace, the latter with bookshelves and fireplace
with paired pilasters and motto to frieze of fireplace, paired
columns and strapwork frieze to overmantel with armorial
bearings; painted arabesques to shutter backs.
Main staircase, c1700, but probably extensively reconstructed
in C19, open-well with cut string, 3 twisted balusters to a
tread, carved tread ends and ramped handrail;
bolection-moulded panelling in 2 heights, the upper panels and
panelled ceiling probably C19.
Morning room to south of hall has Willement decoration: white
marble Tudor-arched fireplace with cusped panels; plaster
ceiling with bands.
Ebony bedroom, originally billiard room, and drawing room to
north-east wing have 1856 scheme with cornices and
Jacobean-style plaster ceilings; white marble C18-style
fireplaces, that to Ebony Bedroom with Italian inserts with
Lucy crest. Drawing room has gilded and painted cornice and
ceiling, and large pier glasses.
Rooms to first floor originally guest bedrooms: doors with
egg-and-dart and eared architraves; C18-style fireplaces, that
to end room, originally Ebony Bedroom, has wood Rococo-style
fireplace with Chinoiserie panel; 1950s stair to attic.
South-east wing has c1700 stair, probably altered in C19, with
symmetrical balusters with acanthus, closed string; first
floor has wall and ceiling paintings: land and sea battle
scenes painted on canvas, male and female grisaille busts.
First floor has to west the Green Room, with Willement
wallpaper and simple Tudor-arched fireplace with
wallpaper-covered chimney board; adjacent room has marble
Death Room and its dressing room to east end have wallpaper of
gold motifs on white, painted 6-panel doors and architraves,
papier-mache ceilings; bedroom has fireplace with marble
architrave. Adjacent room has bolection-moulded panelling with
c1700 Dutch embossed leather. Stair to attic has c1700
balusters with club-form on acorn. Attics over great hall and
north-east and south-east wings have lime-ash floors and
servants’ rooms, each with small annex and corner fireplace;
South wing has kitchen with high ceiling and 2
segmental-arched recesses for C19 ranges; Tudor-arched recess
with latticed chamber for smoked meats over door.
Servants’ hall has dark marble bolection-moulded fireplace and
cornice; scullery has bread oven, small range, pump and former
south window retaining glass.
First floor has to south end a pair of rooms added for Mary
Elizabeth Lucy in her widowhood; bedroom to east with deep
coved cornice and Adam-style fireplace, sitting room to west
similar, with gold on white wallpaper, white marble fireplace
with painted glass armorial panels and 1830s-40s carpet; door
to spiral timber turret staircase.
Nursery has fireplace with faceted panels and C19 Delft tiles;
probably 1920s wallpaper.
Other rooms with similar fireplaces and coloured glazed tiles.
While dating back to the C16, the house is one of the best
examples of the early C19 Elizabethan Revival style. Property
of National Trust.
(The Buildings of England: Pevsner, N & Wedgwood, A:
Warwickshire: Harmondsworth: 1966-: 227-9; The National Trust
Guide to Charlecote Park: 1991-; Wainwright C: The Romantic
Listing NGR: SP2590656425
This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.
The house on this side houses the Victorian Kitchen, Servant’s Hall Shop and Charlecote Pantry.