Charlecote Park is an excellent example of a 16th century country house originally built in the Elizabethan Tudor style and significantly updated with Victorian additions. Surrounded by a private deer park, it is situated on the edge of the River Avon near Wellesbourne a short distance east of Stratford-upon-Avon. Since 1946 it has been managed by the National Trust but the property is still the home of the current baronet, Sir Edmund Fairfax-Lucy and he and his family still reside in a section of the house. One of the most remarkable facts about the property is that is has been in the same family since shortly after the Norman conquest of England in 1066. The land and village were granted to Sir Walter de Cherlcote by Henry de Montfort around 1189. By all accounts the land had been in the de Montfort family since Hugh de Montfort had fought alongside William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings and been granted title to a multitude of lands and titles across England. There is some historical speculation that it was Hugh de Montford who delivered the blow that killed King Harold and thus won the English crown for William, Duke of Normandy.
Charlecote Park was constructed in 1558 by Sir Thomas Lucy and in 1823, George Hammond Lucy) inherited the house and set himself the task of recreating the original style. (Featured in the above picture.)The Fairfax Baronets inherited the property In the middle of the 19th century and changed their family name to Lucy.
The house has many fine architectural features including the barrel-vaulted ceiling of the great hall and the exceptionally well preserved gatehouse which remains unaltered. The furniture and decorations are considered some of the finest examples of their kind in the country.
A Shakespearian Criminal Record
There are a number of accounts that claim that, as a young man, William Shakespeare was well known in the area for poaching deer and hare from the lands around Charlcote House. Although a formal deer park was only created long after Shakespeare’s time the area was still rich in wild game that effectively belonged to the Lucy family and young William seems to have made the most of this ‘free’ bounty. According to local legend he was whipped the first time he was caught, imprisoned the second and then fled to London when it looked like he’d be sent before the magistrates for the third time. It’s amazing to think that had the game keeper decided to ‘let loose an arrow’ at William instead of arresting him then the greatest literary works of the English language may never have been written and Shakespeare would have only ever been remembered as a petty thief.
The Africa Connection
There is a painting of Captain Thomas Lucy in the house entitled Charlecote Park by Sir Godfrey Kneller which also shows an African boy dressed in blue livery coat and red stockings. He appears to be wearing a gold collar around his neck. Painted in 1680 it is believed to be the first depiction of an African person the British Midlands. His presence in the painting has divided art historians who cannot agree whether he’s a servant, slave, ward or merely a character from the artist’s imagination. The National trust describes him as a page boy. It’s interesting to note that an African child was baptised Philip Lucy at Charlecote Park in 1735.
Witches at Charlecote
According to Meg Elizabeth Atkins, the author of Haunted Warwickshire, there was once a coven of exceptionally horrible witches that lived in the grounds of the manor. The head witch was called Diana and was said to ride a stag through the grounds. If anyone upset these ladies then the victim would simply vanish but the following morning there’d be an extra cow in the paddocks. They’re may even be a connection between the witches of Charlecote Park and Shakespeare’s depiction of the witches in his play – Macbeth. Weird and wayward sisters indeed. A ‘witch’s cottage’ can be seen in the gardens of the Manor although this is generally referred to as a gardener’s hut.
Some visitors have also claimed to see the grey ghost of a lady standing near to the lake.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Chipping Norton Rd, Chadlington, Chipping Norton
Oxfordshire, England, OX7 3PE
+44 (0)1608 641 993
- Address: Loxley Lane (ext), Charlecote, Warwickshire, England, UK, CV35 9ER
- GPS: 52.20543611,-1.622327778
- Phone: 0044 (0)1789 470 277
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: CV35 9ER
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Very good / Disabled parking, wheelchair transfers and buggy lifts. Outdoor gravel paths.
- Visibility from Road: Very limited
- Image Credits: Header Image: Paul Vincent