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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Charlecote's mysterious Summer House

Have you ever stood outside the little thatched Summer House in the gardens at Charlecote Park, peering through the windows wishing you could see just a little more? 

I have and I have seen many people do this and then walk around it hoping to get a closer look. The view through the windows leaves people wanting more as they see the beautiful wooden Tudor looking panels, the stained glass windows and the little fireplace. So perfect in many ways.

Granny's Summer House is a grade II listed property which was built from brick and timber for Mary Elizabeth Lucy's children and their children after them. It was designed by the Butler for George Hammond Lucy's and built by the same people who built the marvellous dresser in the dining room, 'Willcox  Apprentices' of Warwick.

                                          The dresser in the dining room.

 The Summer House was modelled on Plas Newydd in Llangollen , a place which held fond memories for Mary Elizabeth of a holiday spent there as a child.

Her memories she wrote down in her diaries.

‘Dearest Mamma once took me with her to visit two old ladies, Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sara Ponsonby, who lived together in a beautiful cottage at Llangollen and had no end of pretty things in their drawing room… (The little thatched summerhouse in Charlecote’s garden by the orangery I copied from what I remember of that visit and I furnished it with child-sized tables and chairs to amuse my children and their children after them).’ Chapter 1, Mistress of Charlecote
       A painting of Mary Elizabeth Lucy which hangs inside Charlecote house.

This little cottage is very fragile and has had much work done to the outside in recent years. 

Weather and time have not been kind to it but with money raised and constant conservation work, it should be here for a good few years for us all to enjoy.

Matt the gardener and his volunteers always make sure there is an array of colour around the cottage  which finishes the picture just perfectly.

From the picture below, you can see where it was once used as a mini aviary. Much of this has been rebuilt in the last couple of years along with other repairs which were desperately needed.

The picture below shows you how it looked before the work was done. 

The thatched roof beautifully restored in recent years.

Charlecote would love nothing more than to allow all visitors a peek inside but to preserve this stunning little house, this is not always possible, however I was given special permission to go inside and take some photos to share with you all. 

The first time I entered the Summer House or little cottage as some people think of it, I was amazed how much bigger it was on the inside than it looked from the outside. It's a little like Dr Who's Tardis :)

The whole interior which is made up of two rooms is clad with reused timber fielded panelling which I guess means they recycled in the old days too :)

The wood has been beautifully crafted and both rooms have canted (angled) ceilings. The first room you enter, (I guess is a little like a hallway or a reception room) has so much detail in it including  wooden coat of arms decorated into the slanted part of the ceiling. Here are a few pictures I took of it. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

The stunning ceiling in the first entrance room.

Coats of arms wooden shields.

Can you imagine having a playhouse like this as a child? I can and I would have loved it, the adventures you could have in this.

The picture below shows a built in mirrored glass cabinet which holds little trinkets.

Both rooms have colourful stained glass windows which let the sun rays in beautifully. 

Two of the stained glass windows have dates on them 1826 and 1828. These dates are the years in which Mary and Caroline were born, daughters of Mary Elizabeth and George Hammond Lucy.

There is a detailed sentimental arch that divides the two rooms. The view is towards the entrance door.

As you walk through the arch, the first thing that hits you is the fireplace, It's stunning, the whole room is, well the complete cottage is to be honest.

Look at the detail and all this for children! Isn't it amazing!

 Everything has been scaled down for children yet  feels so real, not like a play house at all. The details in this house are truly something to see.

This is the view you get through the window.

The ceiling in the main room.

Even a little book shelf was built for it.

The large window which so many of us have looked through, looks so different looking out. Your eyes follow the path towards Charlecote house itself taking in the beautiful gardens along the way.

Mary Elizabeth spent many hours herself pottering around the gardens. She loved her time spent in them. As she got older and more frail, it is said she used to sit in this Summer House and watch the gardener tend to the garden. From what I have heard the garden relaxed her and gave her hours and hours of enjoyment.

The view must have changed with the seasons as it does today and because of the where the house sits, you can also watch the sun coming down from inside.

 I can imagine Mary Elizabeth's children playing in the Summer house, watching who comes up the long pathway to collect them, knowing playtime was about to come to an end for that day.

                                  The view from in front of the Summer House.

To give you an idea of size inside the Summer House, it doubles up as Santa's grotto at Christmas which is the rare time people do get access to this amazing little house.

It always helps when someone is in a photo to get a better idea of size. Well I think it does anyway.

I watch as the children take in Father Christmas but the parents, well they take in the rooms themselves and always walk away amazed. 

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and a sneaky look inside Granny's Summer House. 

For more information on visiting Charlecote Park, click on the link below.

Jana Eastwood

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