Charlecote Park, Warwickshire

A splendid, expansive house Charlecote Park is both historically and architecturally significant, and is still inhabited by descendants of the Lucy family. The present house, was undertaken by Thomas Lucy (later to become Sir Thomas Lucy), whose family had owned property there since the 12th century. Building commenced in 1551, and the east front still retains much of its Elizabethan form, with gables and octagonal corner turrets, each with their own cupola, ball and weathervane. However, most of the external décor dates from the 19th century when George Hammond Lucy inherited Charlecote Park and wished to restore the house to its former glory.

An imposing gatehouse is the only original Elizabethan feature to survive intact, and the rosy, pink brick provides a 'warm' welcome to its visitors. At the entrance front of the house, the 16th century Renaissance porch features the arms of Queen Elizabeth, celebrating her visit to Charlecote Park in 1572. Although she only stayed for two nights, the family are naturally proud of this fact, and her portrait and coat-of-arms are displayed throughout Charlecote Park. The Elizabethan Hall of Sir Thomas Lucy, would have been an important banqueting room, with a screen and a gallery, and although it remains impressive, today it houses paintings and sculptures. A notable feature is the fabulous table covered in coloured marbles and semi-precious stones, the 16th century marble slab coming from the Borghese Palace.

The extended west front of Charlecote Park provided for a spacious new dining room and library, both adorned with amazing, elaborate ceilings in the 'Elizabethan Revival' style. Standing in the dining room is a masterpiece of genius and skill - the 'Warwickshire Sideboard' - which was considered worthy of being shown to Queen Victoria on her visit. Contrasting with this period, the Ebony Bedroom and the Drawing Room both display intricate, shallow-ribbed 'Jacobean' ceilings. It is reputed that Nelson once slept in the ebony bed. All the State Rooms afforded the comfort and luxury that was traditionally accepted in past years, but the scullery and kitchen are much more austere, and totally practical.

A museum, housed in a former banqueting rooom, exhibits the family's passion for sporting activities, including cricket, tennis, polo, fishing and archery. Henry Spencer Lucy was the Master of the Warwickshire Hunt in the mid 19th century, and considered the best 'shot' in the Midlands. As a country house, Charlecote Park would have been at the centre of many livelihoods in the rural community. For example, barley from the estate was gathered by the estate workers, processed in the village, and the malt returned to the Brew House to make ale. This 18th century outbuilding is just one of many interesting buildings in the grounds.

Shakespeare has been associated with Charlecote Park, in less than happy circumstances. Supposedly, as a young man, he was caught poaching in the grounds, and suffered justice at the hands of Sir Thomas Lucy, whom Shakespeare later ridiculed in his plays. Surrounded by lovely grounds (largely the work of Capability Brown), with the west front facing the River Avon, Charlecote Park enjoys an idyllic location close to Stratford.


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