Cast your mind back to your English GCSE days. And more specifically – William Shakespeare.
Do you remember the tale about him running away from Stratford-Upon-Avon to London because he had been caught poaching? Well, you can still visit the place where it is supposed to have all happened.
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 in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The story goes that Shakespeare was forced to flee to London to avoid prosecution by the owner and local magistrate, Sir Thomas Lucy. The rest, as they say, is history. Shakespeare took revenge on Lucy by making him Justice Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Like many places in Warwickshire, Charlecote Park does pretty well off the back of its association with the Bard. But there is so much more to the place than that – nearly 900 years of history more!
Charlecote Park – History and People
The Lucy family came to England as supporters of William the Conqueror, and there have been Lucys at Charlecote since the 13th Century.
The main structure of the house you see today was completed by Sir Thomas Lucy in 1558. It was one of the first great Elizabethan houses, and I can confirm its charm has not faded over time.
The interior is a bit more recent. The house was refitted by George Hammond Lucy and his wife in the mid 19th Century. The style is Elizabethan Revival – you may think you’re looking at authentic Elizabethan interiors, but do not be deceived!
Charlecote Park – Features
The Great Hall
The crowning feature of Charlecote Park is undoubtedly the Great Hall.
As well as the impressive display of portraits, you can also find in this room the original letter from Oliver Cromwell to Richard Lucy summoning him to the Barebones Parliament.
I’m always a sucker for a good library, but the library at Charlecote is exceptional.
14th Century Book of Hours? Check. 16th Century edition of Machiavelli’s The Prince? Check. Second Folio of Shakespeare? Check. Unique copy of Institution Principis Christiani that Desiderius Erasmus gave to Henry VIII? Mind blown!!!
The Drawing Room
While the drawing room is delightful in its present form, its the history of the room which is more significant.
Queen Elizabeth stayed at Charlecote in August 1572 after visiting nearby Kenilworth Castle and her favourite Robert Dudley. She slept in the Great Bedchamber on the ground floor where the drawing room now stands.
The Elizabethan Gatehouse is a Renaissance gem, doubling as a banquet house. Perfect Insta-fodder!
Charlecote Park – Top Tips
- Take time to explore the parkland – as well admiring the Capability-Brown landscapes, stop to take a look at the sheep too. They’re descended from the first flock of Jacob sheep in the UK bought to England from Portugal in 1755 by the Lucys.
- Get there early on weekends and holidays – access is limited by timed tickets on busy periods
- Don’t miss the gatehouse – on most days you can climb to the top of it and the views are superb!
I must admit I only decided to visit Charlecote Park as the entry was free with my Art Pass, but I was more than pleasantly surprised.