DISCOVER A TREASURE IN SHAKESPEARE’S HOME COUNTY OF WARWICKSHIRE, ENGLAND.
Discover a treasure located in Shakespeare’s home county of Warwickshire, England.
n 1583, a young William Shakespeare went deer poaching at Charlecote Park.
He was caught and tried by Sir Thomas Lucy I, a magistrate, in the great hall at Charlecote. Shakespeare was probably fined, and he may also have received a flogging and banishment from the grounds.
Many years later, he wrote Sir Thomas into one of his plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor, portraying him in the unflattering role of Justice Shallow.
Queen Elizabeth I visited the park in 1572, and Sir Thomas laid on extravagant entertainment for her visit. Today, a bust of Queen Elizabeth I stands on the mantelpiece over the open fire in the great hall. Thomas Lucy was knighted in the great hall in 1565 by the Queen’s favorite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
The Lucy family lived at Charlecote for almost 900 years, beginning in the 12th century, with successive generations occupying the estate. In the 1550s, the first Thomas Lucy constructed the house that stands today. Portraits of Lucy family ancestors line the walls in many rooms, and four members of the family still live there in a private wing.
Between 1829 and 1865, George and Mary Lucy transformed much of Charlecote, inspired by the Elizabethan revival style. They decorated rooms with heraldic stained glass, ebony furniture and beautiful tables and cabinets from the William Beckford Collection. The house is a glorious example of 19th century Elizabethan revivalist style.
MAKING A GRAND ENTRANCE
Trophy heads and hunting scenes were common in great houses, where hunting was a popular pastime. The view from the entrance porch leads straight into the impressive great hall.
The great hall is a stunning example of George Hammond Lucy’s 19th century Elizabethan revival interiors. He took a cold and drafty room, knocked down the gallery and transformed it into the great hall, where he displayed portraits of his ancestors and their famous visitors. The ceiling is deceptive. It’s actually plasterwork, painted to look like a wooden barrel-vaulted ceiling. The walls, which appear to be stone, are also painted plaster. The Elizabethan style chimneypiece is from this period of redecoration in the 1830s. There are even Tudor roses on the door handles.
The Elizabethan style chimneypiece is from this period of redecoration in the 1830s.
The dining room was part of an extension to the house in the 1830s, with views of the river and deer park outside. The decorative scheme dates to the 1830s, and was inspired by Elizabethan designs. There is oak paneling on the lower walls and the wallpaper is blue/red flock on gold. The stained glass windows contain Willement’s armorial glass. The pale blue vases on the mantelpiece are Cracklin vases, which originally cost 15 guineas. The blue/gold vases beside them cost 23 British pounds, 12 shillings and 6 old pence. The Wilton carpet complements the wallpaper, while the rug under the table has heraldic motifs of the Lucy family.
UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS
This staircase was first created between 1717 and 1723, and may have been reconstructed in the 19th century. The paneling is 19th century, imitating the style of Francis Smith of Warwick. The portrait at the top of the stairs depicts George Lucy. It was painted by Thomas Gainsborough in 1760, and cost 8 guineas. The other portraits depict Sir Henry Fairfax-lucy and his family. The Dutch cabinet under the stairs might be the work of Jan van Mekeren, a 17th century cabinet maker from Amsterdam, and may have stood in this position since 1837. The tapestry at the top of the stairs is an 18th century Flemish creation, showing the Duke of Marlborough in battle.
The stained glass windows contain Willement’s armorial glass.
TRIMMED IN DAMASK
The drawing room decorative scheme dates to the 1850s and was designed by Mary Elizabeth Lucy. Silk damask covers the walls, and the original wall covering came from Trollope and Sons in the 1820s. It was replaced in 1984 with an identical copy, created by Richard Humphries of Castle Hedingham.
The furniture came from the Fonthill Abbey sale in Wiltshire, and much of it originated from Florence, Italy. The Erand harp belonged to Mary Elizabeth Lucy, who was a keen harpist.
THE ROOM OF SECRETS
The library was often used for serving tea. You can see the heraldic stained glass windows here, which were added in the 1830s and appear elsewhere in the house too. Willement created the carved woodwork, gold leaf wallpaper and seat covers, which were replaced in 1954 with reproduction covers. The furniture and fittings in this room have barely been touched since they were put here in the 1830s. Wilcox carved the oak chairs, and there’s a secret cupboard containing books and papers.
A ROOM FOR ENTERTAINMENT
Just about every Victorian country house has a billiard room, where gentlemen would retire after dinner for a game and a smoke. The north wing was remodeled in the 1950s to create this room. The ceiling is a shallow-ribbed Jacobean design, dating to 1856. In 1841, George Hammond Lucy purchased the fireplace from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Academy of Fine Arts) in Florence. The picture over the fireplace depicts George Lucy and dates to 1758—it was painted while he was on a grand tour of Europe. The other portraits show late Victorian members of the Lucy family.
Left. Mary Elizabeth Lucy’s harp by Sebastian and Pierre Erardhe stands in the drawing room. Opposite. Both the ceiling and walls of the great hall are made from painted plaster, designed to look like timber and stone.
Right. This is the great hall, with the marble and porphyry plinths that were purchased in the 1840s and came from Italy.
Left. This view looks into the great hall from the entrance porch at Charlecote Park.
Above. Over the dining room fireplace is Spoils of the Chase by Frans Snyder, who specialized in painting hunting scenes. At the time, these images were considered suitable dining room decorations.
The drawing room contains furniture from Florence, a harp, Tudor portraits and landscapes. It’s preserved the way Mary Elizabeth designed it.
Above. The Bardin globes in the library date from 1800. One maps the world as seen at that time, while the other is a celestial globe depicting the night sky. Opposite, top. A secret cupboard inside a bookshelf resides in the library.