Last year we went to Stratford Upon Avon for a Rotary Meeting and took the opportunity to visit all of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust sites. The ticket we purchased gave free return entry for the next 12 months and so we decided that we would return to visit Mary Arden’s Farm again if that became possible.
This year we joined the National Trust because we were going to the Isle of Man and knew that we would be able to visit free of charge all Manx National Heritage sites throughout the island because they had reciprocal entry arrangements with the National Trust (we managed to go to nine). A gap in the diary led us to plan a visit two National Trust houses in Warwickshire (Charlecote Park and Baddesley Clinton) and to revisit Mary Arden's Farm.
The National Trust website for Charlecote is one of their better ones and worth visiting here.
This is marketed as "A Victorian home set in landscaped deer park” and whilst it is Victorian, it is also a Tudor building in remarkable condition,
but as you walk dow the drive, it is its Tudor appearance which you notice first.
The best way of explaining the extraordinarily long history of this place is to copy a paragraph direct from the National Trust website:
"Ancestors of the Lucy family have lived at Charlecote since at least 1189, when Sir Walter de Cherlecote inherited the estate, but the story really begins with the first Sir Thomas Lucy who was born around 1532. He married 12-year-old heiress Joyce Acton in 1546 and using her money he rebuilt Charlecote as one of the first great Elizabethan houses.
Today, you see Charlecote with its splendid Victorian interiors created by George Hammond and his wife Mary Elizabeth Lucy. The present baronet, Sir Edmund Fairfax-Lucy and his family still live in one wing of the house."
It is said that in his youth, Shakespeare was caught poaching deer in the grounds of the house.
The Gate House was used as a place to eat dessert whilst overlooking the grounds and once also as an isolation ward for a child with Scarlet Fever.
The main house can first been fully seen once you have gone through the Gate House.
Unlike some buildings where “show and wealth” was restricted to the front and the sides were built to a lesser standard, here the sides are just as good as the front.
Labour was of course cheap when the house was built and wealth would be shown by possessions such as this carved corner stone
or the carved stone trellis around the garden
with a very neat Parterre within.
Over the front entrance of the house is the coat of arms of Elizabeth I put there in honour of her visit to the house.
Elizabeth was queen of England and Wales and hence there are only the symbols of these countries. That of Scotland did not arrive until James.
Within the main hall is an astonishingly intricate pietra dura stone table. I could not get into a position where a photograph
would do it justice so you have to be satisfied with a picture of a bit of the pattern. There is information about it here together with a link to a website showing how they are made. It is beautiful (if you like that sort of thing), very heavy and in its day, very expensive at £3400 (perhaps around £250,000 today).
There are numerous rooms within the house which you can walk through. Nearly all give an impression of a
Victorian House rather than an Elizabethan one because the inside of the house moved with the times. The room above was said to have been slept in by Elizabeth I when she visited the estate.
The ceiling is Victorian in design and similar to that which we saw at the Gaiety Theatre in the Isle of Man a week or so earlier.
On one wall hangs a rather nice painting of a lady in Victorian costume standing against a gate. It was in fact painted in the
1970’s and the gate is just outside the window.
The Staircase manages to give an impression of Tudor age
and Victorian presence through the family portraits hanging on the wall.
National Trust say that the Library is the most important one in any of their houses
and has the usual ornate Victorian ceiling.
the adjacent Dining Room is small
but nicely laid out
Outside and close to the kitchens is an old hand pump which looks much older than the nearby kitchens.
These retain their Victorian look
with an ice chest (before they were able to make ice, it would be collected during the winter and stored underground for use during the year)
a large kitchen dresser
and a working range
and a kitchen maid cooking lunch.
We were impressed with Charlecote Park because the staff there were enthusiastically explaining everything to anyone who would listen and because it was a very good mix of Tudor and Victorian.
And to complete the Victorian feel of the place, in the grounds was a live Punch and Judy show taking place - the first I have seen for many many years.
Listening, it was obvious that children still know what to do when Punch appears.
A few miles away is another property dating from approximately the same period. And again, the National Trust website best sums up the house:
"Baddesley Clinton was the home of the Ferrers family for 500 years. Much of the house you see today was built by Henry Ferrers, a lawyer, diarist and antiquarian, in the late 1500s.
The house was a sanctuary not only for the Ferrers family, but also for persecuted Catholics who were hidden from priest hunters in its secret hiding places during the 1590s."
The house is one of those rare moated houses
and is absolutely picturesque.
This is the rear of the house and is made from brick, presumably because brick was cheaper than stone (here).
From the front, it looks very a very solid house
and the Front Door Bell pull perhaps reflects its Christian role in earlier years.
The front door looks like it dates from the 1500s and once inside,
you are in a central three sided courtyard,
it looks absolutely beautifully maintained.
There is a lot of history inside and there is a clear explanation of its lineage in the entrance. Of interest to us was that the Vaux Sisters lived in the house in the 1590s and some of my ancestors (albeit 100 years later) had the name Vaux.
Like the previous house we visited, this one dates from the Tudor Period but has been lived in fairly continuously and thus reflects Victorian life more than any other.
Above is the dining room and adjacent to that is a sitting room with portraits of “The Quartet”. When we went round, the room guide had a very interesting story to tell about the life style of the four members of “The Quartet” and how the relationships between them came about and developed. I will say no more and let you ask if ever you visit the house.
The Great Hall is home to a very ornate early 17th century fireplace and upstairs in Henry Ferrers’s Bedroom is an equally historic one which would not lend itself to a good photograph.
The house has its own chapel (as was common with houses of the Elizabethan period).
Hanging in one window was a lovely piece of painted glass. Painted in the 1700s, it shows a Dutch church interior.
Some members of the quartet were painters and a room has been recreated as a studio.
In the adjacent library is a “blood stain” on the floor which supposedly relates to a colourful period in the past. Again, you will have to ask for a detailed explanation and the story. Then, as now, if you had money, you could buy influence and/or forgiveness.
Priest Holes were common in houses of the period.
Baddesley contains three and the stairs in this picture enable the visitor to look into one which is hidden behind a wall and above a fire place.
Another is accessed through a trap door in a room next to the chapel
and was accessed (if I have understood it correctly) by going down a "garderobe shaft" into the drains below the house.
They were very successful as Priest Holes in that none were ever discovered.
There is a readable account of the house here. There is a lot more to see and learn than we have covered here. We really enjoyed visiting this house and would like to come again sometime.
Mary Arden’s Farm
Mary Arden’s Farm just outside of Stratford Upon Avon is part of a large site comprising houses, barns, outbuildings, fields and more.
For many years this building (here the rear) was thought to be Mary Arden’s Farm but research suddenly revealed that
it was Adam Palmer’s Farm (their next door neighbour).
This is the rear of Mary Arden’s Farm - the building next door.
The farm tries to recreate farming life in the 1600s with a few friendly Tamworth Pigs
and Geese who you are invited to herd (the technique is one in front blocking the way you do not want them to go using a long stick, and one behind encouraging them to walk and no sudden movements !). There are also Owls and other birds of prey.
The Kitchen Garden is tended in the style of the period and a major event every day is Lunch.
First however the fire in the kitchen has to be lit (and it was in a very traditional way - no fire lighters or matches)
and over a few hours, lunch was cooked
which the Master of the House and the farm workers sat down to eat in full view of all of the visitors. They remained in period for much of the time but also explained how the table worked, what they ate and why etc.
Upstairs are a number of beds (maybe one is the second best feather bed)
and at the end of the loft is where the servants would have slept.
It was pouring with rain for most of the time when we visited and hence what we saw and did was somewhat limited. We did however have the site much to ourselves.