Ancestors of the Lucy family have lived at Charlecote since at least 1189, when Sir Walter de Cherlecote inherited the estate, but the story really begins with the first Sir Thomas Lucy who was born around 1532. He married 12-year-old heiress Joyce Acton in 1546 and using her money he rebuilt Charlecote as one of the first great Elizabethan houses.
Today, you see Charlecote with its splendid Victorian interiors created by George Hammond and his wife Mary Elizabeth Lucy. The present baronet, Sir Edmund Fairfax-Lucy and his family still live in one wing of the house.
When you visit Charlecote you are treading in the footsteps of Elizabeth I and maybe even the young William Shakespeare.
Great writers, intrigued by the Shakespeare connection, have visited the Lucy family and their impressive library.
One of the finest actresses of our age has close family links with Charlecote and even today, the occasional famous face can be seen among our visitors.
Charlecote’s park and garden history is a fascinating reflection of English history as a whole.
It takes in the destruction of the ancient Forest of Arden and the Victorians’ enthusiasm for collecting exotic plants, via Capability Brown’s ability to remould entire landscapes to his vision.
When 20-year-old Mary Elizabeth Williams married George Hammond Lucy in 1823 she fainted during the wedding ceremony. George was reduced to agonised inaction and this set the tone for the rest of their life together. 'His wife soon learnt to take all irksome decisions on herself.'
Mary Elizabeth’s strength and determination created the Charlecote you see today.
St Leonard's church
In 1851 Mary Elizabeth decided to pull down the old Anglo-Norman church which she found too austere. She turned to the architect John Gibson to rebuild it in a Gothic Revival style in memory of her late husband.
During the building work, the monuments to the first three Thomas Lucys were simply stored in a shed in the churchyard wrapped in blankets. Having worked on the house, Willement now provided stained glass for the east window and the rose window in the family chapel, where the Lucy monuments now sit.
Mary Elizabeth’s sister and her husband, Lord Willoughby de Broke from nearby Compton Verney paid for the richly carved stone font. Crimson velvet cushions and central heating were also provided to ease the rigours of the Sunday sermon.
Find out more about the fascinating items you can see at Charlecote.
The picture above shows just a fraction of the enormous carved buffet in the dining room which cost Mary Elizabeth an astronomical £1,600 in 1858. Have you seen the large warming cupboard on wheels in the kitchen? It’s lined with metal sheeting to reflect heat back into the grate, thus helping to roast the meat as well as warming the dishes and plates.
From priceless artefacts to servants' tools, everything has its own story to tell.
Fascinated by Charlecote's history?
Pick up a guidebook on your way in, or they are on sale in the shops and Orangery restaurant too.
Mary Elizabeth's story is told in full in Mistress of Charlecote.
The Children of Charlecote is a poignant fictional account of Charlecote before World War I by Phillippa Pearce and Brian Fairfax-Lucy - one of Charlecote's children.