Volunteering at Charlecote Park is never dull, there is always something going on and when I received an e-mail asking if I could take some photos of a very special visit, I felt very honoured.
The Royal Shakespeare Company, director Christopher Luscombe and cast of 'Love's Labour's Lost' and 'Love's Labour's Won' (the latter of which is normally known as 'Much Ado About Nothing') came on a field trip to National Trust's Charlecote Park in June 2014. The reason behind the visit was because Charlecote was the inspiration for the amazing backdrops being used on stage at the RSC, designed by Simon Higlett. The behind the scenes work and research which has gone into these two productions is clear to see. Such perfection in all areas.
I was more than a little nervous as I headed To Charlecote Park that day but I shouldn't have been, everyone was really nice and a pleasure to be in the company of. I met them at reception and we all walked down the back drive which is normally reserved for staff and volunteers but on this occasion the long main drive to the house was being re-surfaced. The walk down the back drive is a very pleasant walk which runs along the River Dene and has a lovely view of West Park. I love this walk first thing in the morning when the mist is just lifting and out of the mist you can spot the odd deer, sometimes swimming across the river or as the sun goes down and the rays shine through the trees.
As we reached Charlecote house, we were greeted by another volunteer on the front lawn in front of the gatehouse for an introduction speech. The gatehouse features in the plays and was a good place to start.
We all climbed the twisting stairs up to the gatehouse roof and admired the views........and of course the bells had to be checked out for the plays too! The bells were recorded and can be heard chiming by the audience inside the theatre. That is what I call dedication to one's profession.
The views from the top of the gatehouse are really beautiful.
I left the RSC group to explore Charlecote House on their own but I will share some photos of inside which I have taken on previous occasions.
The beautiful Library which has inspired one of the backdrops.
The stunning drawing room which I call the 'Golden Room' was once a bedroom fit for a Queen. Queen Elizabeth I visited Charlecote Park in 1572.
The Dining room all set for dinner with it's amazing dresser standing against the wall. It was made just down the road in Warwick by J M Wilcox in the 1850's.
There is so much more to see but I will leave that for you to explore should you visit yourself. Charlecote House has been closed since Christmas for it's annual Winter deep clean but will re-open to visitors on Feburary 14th.
The connection between Shakespeare and Charlecote goes back over 400 years when it is said that the young William Shakespeare was caught poaching on Charlecote land. He was brought before the local magistrate, who just happen to be Sir Thomas Lucy, owner of the land.
The picture below hangs on the walls inside Charlecote House and shows the young William Shakespeare being brought before the magistrate.
In the Grand Hall you will see William Shakespeare Himself, not in a picture as a poacher, but displayed with pride as a writer.
The Lucy's have owned this land since 1189 and there are lots of lovely old stories about knights going off to war and on all sorts of adventures in a great book I read called 'Charlecote and the Lucys' by Alice Fairfax-Lucy. Unfortunately this book is 'out of print' now but there are still plenty on the internet to find. If you are interested in local history, this book is worth a read. It doesn't just cover Charlecote and the Lucy's but local history too, including a little of the life inside Warwick Castle. One book which is still for sale and an excellent read (also written by Alice Fairfax-Lucy) is 'Mistress of Charlecote' which follows the life of Mary Elizabeth who is responsible for much of what you see on a visit today. Mary Elizabeth Williams married George Hammond Lucy in 1823 and became the lady of the house and lived at Charlecote until her death in 1890.
Charlecote Park has been in the care of the National Trust since 1946 but the present baronet, Sir Edmond Fairfax-Lucy and his family still live in one wing of the house.
Charlecote Church has also been used in the plays and it was another stop on the field trip before heading back to London for rehearsals.
Watching the partnership between The RSC and Charlecote grow over the year has been amazing. While walking around the park I have often heard people comparing what they had seen at the theatre the night before to what they were seeing while visiting the park. It became a two day adventure for many I think. All I have heard is raving reviews. Everyone has loved the plays and it has made them want more so a trip to Charlecote Park they have made. With the RSC theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon being so close (4 miles down the road) this has been very easy for people to do.
The gatehouse at Charlecote Park which you can see reproduced on the stage at the theatre.
If you haven't seen the plays yet, there is still time as they are playing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until March 14th 2015.
If you can't make it to the theatre, there is a chance to see both plays broadcast live to cinemas around the country. On the 11th of February they will be showing, 'Love's Labour's Lost' and on the 4th of March, 'Love's Labour's Won'.
My next experience with the RSC was in receiving a copy of a leaflet they had designed which happen to have one of my photos on the back. I was well chuffed and must have been walking around with a smile on my face all week! This might be a small thing for most people but it wasn't for me so sorry people, here it is, my claim to fame :)
Earlier this week, director Christopher Luscombe, assistant director Guy Unsworth and some of the cast of 'Love's Labour's Lost' and 'Love's Labour's Won', returned to Charlecote to plant a celebratory tree.
In the picture below, right to left.... actor Jamie Newall. actress Flora Spencer-Longhurst, Director Christopher Luscombe, actress Michelle Terry, Charlecote Park's Head Ranger Adam Maher, assistant director Guy Unsworth, actor Nick Haverson, actress Emma Manton and last but not least actor Edward Bennett.
What better way to celebrate the partnership between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Charlecote Park than planting a tree which will be around for future generations to enjoy for a very long time.
The tree planted was a Beech which when grown, will attract many types of wildlife and will be a beautiful sight in autumn with it's changing colours!
In the picture below from left to right..Adam Maher Park Ranger at National Trust's Charlecote Park, RSC Director Christopher Luscombe, National Trust Midland's Simon Prosser and Assistant Ranger, Nick Woodman.
The lovely Emma Manton with assistant director Guy Unsworth.
I think it has been a great experience to join The RSC to Charlecote as it has been through these two wonderful plays and I have enjoyed recording some of it in my photos.
I hope you have enjoyed my blog. Thank you for reading it.
For more information on the RSC click on this link. http://www.rsc.org.uk/
For Charlecote Park. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/charlecote-park/