Charlecote Park is a magnificent Tudor mansion, surrounded by its own deer park, on the banks of the River Avon near Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, England. The Grade I listed building has been administered by the National Trust since 1946 and is open to the public.
The Lucy family came to England as supporters of William the Conqueror and the family has owned the land at Charlecote since 1247. Sir Thomas Lucy (1532-1600) the builder of the current house was a magistrate under Elizabeth I. In the course of his duties he was responsible for prosecuting local families with Catholic sympathies, including the Arden family, William Shakespeare’s maternal grandparents.
Tradition says that William Shakespeare was once caught poaching deer on the Charlecote Estate. This tale may well be true, as the estate lies close to Shakespeare’s family home at Stratford-upon-Avon. The story goes that Shakespeare was forced to flee the area to avoid prosecution by Sir Thomas. The young playwright escaped to London, and the rest, as they say, is history. Shakespeare satirised Lucy by casting him as Justice Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry VI, part 2.
Although the general outline of the Elizabethan house remains, today it is in fact mostly Victorian. Successive generations of the Lucy family 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.
In the middle of the 19th century the Fairfax Baronets inherited the property when the male line of the Lucy family ended with the death of Henry Spencer Lucy. The baronets changed their family name to Lucy to reflect the traditions of Charlecote.
The house is approached through a long path that leads under the original two-storey Elizabethan gatehouse which remains unaltered.
The Elizabethan Gatehouse
Behind the house is a small formal garden terrace, beyond which is a large deer park designed by Capability Brown around 1760, where a herd of deer still roam.
Formal Garden Terrace
Queen Elizabeth I is known to have visited the house, and stayed in the chamber that now serves as the drawing room.
The Great Hall has a barrel-vaulted ceiling made of plaster painted to look like timber and is a fine setting for the splendid collection of family portraits. Other rooms have richly coloured wallpaper, decorated plaster ceilings and wood panelling. There are magnificent pieces of furniture and fine works of art, including a contemporary painting of Queen Elizabeth I.
The Great Hall
The Library – the Greek vases high above the books date from the 6th century BC and were acquired by the Lucy family in the 1830s.
The house also has a display of carriages, a period laundry and brewroom and in April 2012 Charlecote Park featured as the venue for BBC1’s Antiques Roadshow.