On this day… 1842

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

Home sweet home - Photo by Becky and shared in our flickr group

Home sweet home
– Photo by Becky and shared in our flickr group

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.

Famous faces amongst our visitors

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.

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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.

telBut 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.

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…

On this day… 1836

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!

dining1

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.

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

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!

Imagine seeing a Victorian Mistress of Charlecote running to the gate!

 

 

As You Like It : Charlecote Deer take to the stage!

On 19 April 1879, the Lucy family went to a very special performance of ‘As You Like It’ in Stratford. It was a little different as the performance featured one of our deer herd! The Shakespeare Blog reveals all…

As You Like It was in the very first season of plays performed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in April-May 1879. With its references to the Forest of Arden the gently romantic comedy was bound to please. The other Shakespeares in Barry Sullivan’s season were the sure-fire comedy Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. But it was As You Like It, given just two performances, that created the biggest impression, and a couple of reports of the closing performance on 3 May still exist.

Image taken by a visitor and uploaded to our flickr group

Image taken regular visitor, Stephen Ward.

The other account was written by Sarah Flower, the wife of Charles Edward Flower, the chairman of the theatre. “Some of the actors went to Charlecote and asked Mr Lucy if he would let them have a deer from his park – he readily assented, and it was brought on this evening – his keepers and some dogs also appearing on the stage.
It was put into the mouth of one of the keepers that he said boastingly “Lots of people come from all round the country and even from London to see me and my dogs”. The deer was afterwards stuffed and kept as a property slung up in the picture gallery to be used always in this play. ”

The foresters and deer in As You Like it, 1879

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