We all know that lovely feeling. You’ve been on a very long journey and are almost home. You can’t wait to get back to the place you know, get the kettle on and settle in. Just imagine how you’d feel if you’d been away for 2 years.
Our Mistress of Charlecote, Mary Elizabeth, embarked on an adventure – a Grand Tour of Europe – in 1840. She ventured to many places including Rome – where she was unimpressed with the cleanliness of their suite of apartments – Paris and Zurich! It wasn’t all joyous, as you will pick up from reading the memoirs of Mary Elizabeth.
Here is the account of their emotional return to Charlecote…
At last, on the 20th of May 1842 our carriage rumbled under the Charlecote Gatehouse followed by the chaise out of which climbed Spencer and Aymer, their two sisters and the nurse carrying darling Berkeley who was scarcely ten months old. How great was our thankfulness at returning to the dear old place after nearly two years. Home, sweet home, there is no place half so dear to me, but my eyes did not remain dry when I though of the deaths of two most dear and lovely boys, no longer here, and when I went to the nursery grief filled up the room of my absent children.
Mistress of Charlecote, Chapter 3
1829 – 1843 Dark Leaves in the Wreath
You can find this book, Mistress of Charlecote, for sale in our Servants’ Hall and Pantry shops. But do pop back here from time to time as we love to share the stories of Charlecote in our ‘On this day’ series.
In the past month we’ve had some visitors to Charlecote and they’ve caused us to do a double-take! We’re sure we’ve seen their faces before, perhaps they’re regulars… no. Could they be… why yes… famous faces indeed!
Our teams were very excited to recognise TV’s Grand Designs presenter, Kevin McCloud and then, only a week later, the actor Oliver Ford Davis.
Over the years we do spot famous faces from time to time – in fact there are a number of famous people who live in our local area. Just take a look at this article by the Coventry Telegraph.
But it would seem that Charlecote has allured famous people to its gates for a long time. We all know that Shakespeare is alleged to have been in our park and Elizabeth I called in on a tour of the Midlands. But did you know that our Victorian Mistress of Charlecote, Mary Elizabeth, also greeted a number of very distinguished guests? She recounts the tale of Scottish novelist, poet and playwright, Sir Walter Scott’s visit in 1828 within her memoirs…
A quirky Staffordshire Pottery figurine of Sir Walter Scott, from the collection at Attingham Park.
…Sir Walter Scott and his daughter Ann paid old Charlecote a visit, so early that we were in bed and were awoke by the ringing of the front door bell; and don’t I remember our hurry to get dressed when we heard who it was that had arrived and were waiting for permission to see the house!
When we went down he and Miss Scott were intently surveying the pictures in the Great Hall. I see him now in my mind’s eye, advancing to meet us with the most genuine expression of benevolence and shrewd humour in his face, his hair white as snow and his eyebrows very thick and shaggy, his crippled foot giving him a limping gait. He remained with us for about two hours; … he seemed delighted with the place.
Mistress of Charlecote.
Chapter 2. 1824 – 1829: The Married Lady
So the next time you’re visiting Charlecote, take a moment to see who is standing next to you in the restaurant queue, you might just be surprised…
When reading through the Mistress of Charlecote this particular story made me chuckle. The story of the forgotten biscuits…
In 1836, our Mistress of Charlecote, Mary Elizabeth gave birth to Reginald Aymer and his christening was celebrated on 5th April 1836. Many members of the wider family came to mark the happy occassion.
Within Mary Elizabeth’s memoirs we discover that there was a very elaborate dinner – and it was the very first meal served in the new dining room! The table was adorned with a fine linen cloth with ‘the royal cypher that had once covered the Prince Regent’s table at Carlton House‘. On it was a silver gilt dinner service, gold coasters by Paul Storr and silver candelabra by de Lamerie. Oh and she wore diamonds that her husband, George, had bought especially for the occassion!
Following the christening, Mary Elizabeth shares with us this gem of a story…
Those who had been staying with us for darling Baby’s christening has only just departed when Lord and Lady Shrewsbury with Prince Doria, on their way to London, drove over to spend the day with us… The Prince was in raptures with old Charlecote, and so admired the large Florentine table in the Great Hall, which had originally stood in the Borghese Villa at Rome, and from whence it had been taken by the French in the time of Napoleon.
Detail of top of Pietra dura table in the Great Hall described in the Fonthill sale catalogue of 1823. A superb 16th-century marble slab, formerly in the Borghese Palace. / NTPL
It was bought by my husband at the sale of Fonthill for one thosand eight hundred guineas. (The Prince Borghese had recently married Lord Shrewsbury’s youngest daughter and Price Doria was engaged to Lady Mary Talbot, the eldest.)
(Here’s the bit I like!)
At luncheon the Prince liked the Charlecote biscuits so much that I said laughing, ‘You must carry some away,’ and so I ordered a packet of them to be put in the carriage. Just after they had started I saw the packed of biscuits left behind, so I took it and ran after the carriage, and I caught them up before they got through the Park gate, and gave it to the Prince. When we went to Rome three years later he said to me he should never forget my running after him with the Charlecote biscuits.
They must have been good biscuits!
©National Trust Images/Andreas von Einsiedel
Mistress of Charlecote: The Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy
(Book available for sale from the Servants’ Hall shop)
I imagine it to have been quite a sight, seeing the Mistress running to the gates with the biscuits… although saying that our shop team have often had to run after people who happen to have left things behind in the shop!
Imagine seeing a Victorian Mistress of Charlecote running to the gate!
On this day in 1850…
Two men stood trail at Warwick Assizes and were found guilty of burglary. They had broken into the house at Charlecote Park stealing many family treasures.
On 7 May Mary Elizabeth had been awoken at around 6am by her butler. He informed her that robbers had broken into the house by the garden door during the night. They had ransacked her sitting room, breakfast room, dining room and library. Many family relics and treasures were feared missing.
Mary Elizabeth wrote a list of the missing items and sent the butler to the nearest telegraph office, which was at Rugby. She also had information relating to the robbery posted in nearby towns and railway stations. She offered a reward of £100 for the capture of the criminals.
It later transpired that two men had been making enquiries in Barford about the ownership of the Park. The same men had also been asking similar questions in Warwick and were then seen carrying two large carpet bags. They had been spotted having breakfast in Hatton the morning the robbery had been discovered and then seen boarding a bus to Birmingham.
Inspector Glossop of Birmingham Police was informed of this and immediately suspected two local thieves – John Bradshaw and a man named Evans. Shortly afterwards he apprehended them. One of the men was armed with a loaded pistol, he attempted to use it but was over powered.
When searched John Bradshaw was found to have a number of items that implicated him in the robbery. These included a miniature of Sir Thomas Lucy, a purse containing £43.10s in gold, a silver penny and a pocket book containing Bradshaw’s expenses for the enterprise!
The men stood trial and were found guilty. They were sentenced with transportation – Evans for 10 years and Bradshaw 15 years. Bradshaw requested a meeting with Mary Elizabeth but she, perhaps understandably, refused.
If you wish to find out more about how Mary Elizabeth felt about this, read more in her memoirs…