Charlecote Park is a grand 16th century country house, surrounded by its own deer park, on the banks of the River Avon near Wellesbourne, about 4 miles (6 km) east of Stratford-upon-Avon and 5.5 miles (9 km) south of Warwick, Warwickshire, England. It has been administered by the National Trust since 1946 and is open to the public. It is a Grade I listed building.
The Lucy family has owned the land since 1247. Charlecote Park was built in 1558 by Sir Thomas Lucy, and Queen Elizabeth I stayed in the room that is now the drawing room. Although the general outline of the Elizabethan house remains, nowadays it is in fact mostly Victorian. Successive generations of the Lucy family had modified Charlecote Park over the centuries, but in 1823, George Hammond Lucy (High Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1831) inherited the house and set about recreating the house in its original style.
In the middle of the 19th century the Fairfax Baronets inherited the property when the male line of the Lucy family failed on the death of Henry Spencer Lucy. The baronets changed their family name to Lucy to reflect the traditions of Charlecote.
The Great Hall has a barrel-vaulted ceiling made of plaster painted to look like timber and is a fine setting for the splendid collection of family portraits. Other rooms have richly coloured wallpaper, decorated plaster ceilings and wood panelling. There are magnificent pieces of furniture and fine works of art, including a contemporary painting of Queen Elizabeth I. The original two-storey Elizabethan gatehouse that guards the approach to the house remains unaltered.
Charlecote Park covers 185 acres (75 ha), backing on to the River Avon. William Shakespeare has been alleged to have poached rabbits and deer in the park as a young man and been brought before magistrates as a result. But it is unclear whether there were any deer in the park at that time. It was landscaped by Capability Brown in about 1760.
In the Tudor great hall, the 1680 painting Charlecote Park by Sir Godfrey Kneller, is said to be one of the earliest depictions of a black presence in the West Midlands. The painting, of Captain Thomas Lucy, shows a black boy in the background dressed in a blue livery coat and red stockings and wearing a gleaming, metal collar around his neck. The National Trust’s Charlecote brochure describes the boy as a “black page boy.” In 1735, a black child called Philip Lucy was baptised at Charlecote.
On display at the house is an original letter from Oliver Cromwell, dated 1654, summoning then owner Richard Lucy to the Barebone’s Parliament. Also on display is a 1760 portrait of George Lucy by Thomas Gainsborough, which cost Lucy the sum of eight guineas.
A set of archives for the Lucy family at Charlecote is held by the National Archive. The house also has a display of carriages and a period laundry and brewroom.
In April 2012, Charlecote Park was featured as the venue for BBC1’s Antiques Roadshow.