From the first moment you see Charlecote's magnificent gatehouse, you know you are in for something special, for this house is a triumph of Elizabethan architecture and splendour.
Charlecote, was the seat of the Lucy family from the 12th-century until 1948, but from the richly ornate building of 1550 built for Sir Thomas Lucy, only the gatehouse remains untouched. The building is pure romance, the impressive facade is of brick with soft cream stone dressings, magnificent bays, turrets and tall, decorative chimney's. There is also some marvellous timber-framing to be seen.
During the thirty years between 1820 and 1850, George and Mary Lucy made extensive alterations to the house. They employed the finest craftsmen and bought only the best of materials. Thomas Willement, a designer of note, advised the pair on the most fashionable decor of the day, and John Gibson, a pupil of Barry was engaged for some of the interiors, and to design the church.
The house is known to have associations with two of history's most illustrious characters of the Tudor era, Queen Elizabeth is known to have visited Charlecote, and William Shakespeare is believed to have been caught poaching deer in the park! However, inside, there is little hint of the house as the great Queen would have seen it, for as you look around today what you see is a richness of style and colour evocative of the mid-19th-century.
Much of Thomas Willement's work can be seen in the Great Hall, the Library and the lavishly furnished Dining Room. The best of Gibson's work is in the Drawing Room of the north wing which dates from 1850, and in the elegant ebony bedroom.
Visitors will note the huge table in the hall, this was purchased from Fonthill Abbey in 1823 by George Lucy and other items from Fonthill can be seen in the Tapestry Bedroom. Excellent family portraits are evident throughout the house and there is a superb sideboard featuring exquisite carving in the Dining Room. This was made for Mrs Lucy in 1858, by George Wilcox.
The exterior of the house is surrounded by a fine balustrade with steps leading down to the banks of the River Avon. The deer park was later landscaped by "Capability" Brown.
At Charlecote visitors will enjoy both house and grounds, there are lovely walks amongst forestry, delightful picnic spots, a play area for children, a maze and farm shop.
The estate is in the hands of the National Trust and is open between April and October.
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