The House from a circa 1909 postcard
The Entrance Facade
The House and the moat
House & Family History: Madresfield Court is a large house of 160 rooms that has been the seat of the Lygon family, later earls Beauchamp (pronounced BEECH-um; the title is now extinct), for over 900 years. The moated house dates to the 13th century, with later additions, the largest number of which were constructed in the Elizabethan era, and the star of which is certainly the spectacular Tudor Hall, which comes complete with a staircase whose 103 balusters are made of carved rock crystal. Evelyn Waugh (1903-66) was a frequent visitor to Madresfield in the 1920s and 1930s, when he became a firm friend of Hugh Lygon, son of the 7th Earl Beauchamp (they were at Oxford together). Many of the characteristics of Madresfield and its occupants were reproduced in Waugh's famous novel "Brideshead Revisited," published in 1945. The fictional character of Lord Marchmain was probably modeled on the 7th Earl, once governor of New South Wales and later the leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords. Waugh, who very likely had an affair with Hugh Lygon, reversed the sexual preferences of Lord Marchmain with that of Lord Beauchamp; while the former had escaped to Venice to live with his Italian mistress, the latter was forced to flee England in 1931 and live in Venice and on the Continent after his brother-in-law, Bendor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, threatened to publicly expose him as a practicing homosexual (homosexuality was then a criminal offence in England). When the horrified King George V was told of Beauchamp's homosexuality, he reportedly said "I thought men like that shot themselves." The Duke of Westminster, by all accounts an unattractive human being, apparently hoped to ruin the Liberal Party, of which Beauchamp was a leading light, by ruining Beauchamp (the duke was a right-wing Tory). There was no public scandal, but Lord Beauchamp had to forfeit all his honours (he was made lord lieutenant of Gloucestershire in 1911, carried the sword of state at the coronation of King George V in 1911, was made lord warden of the Cinque Ports in 1913, and a knight of the Garter in 1914) and spent the remainder of his life in exile, dying in New York City in 1938 at the age of sixty-six. (The house most famously associated with "Brideshead Revisited" is Castle Howard in Yorkshire, where filming for the 1981 TV mini series and the 2008 theatrical movie took place). In March 2003 a dinghy was used by burglars to get across the moat at Madresfield and rob the House of many treasures, including art, silver, antiques, and porcelain. Scotland Yard later arrested two suspects and recovered a large number of decorative boxes and rock crystal objects. In his 2015 book, "The King's Private Army: Protecting the British Royal Family during the Second World War," Andrew Stewart revealed that, according a 1940 plan to be implemented if a German invasion of Britain took place, the royal family was to be evacuated to Madresfield Court, the prime minister's office would move to Spetchley Park, and the Cabinet would be installed at Hindlip Hall, all three houses located near each other in Worcestershire.
Collections: Some contents were sold after the death of the 8th Earl Beauchamp's widow in 1989, including Bernardo Bellot's "View to Königstein" (originally given to 1st Earl Beauchamp by the 3rd Viscount Palmerston), which sold to a foreign party at Sotheby's on December 11, 1991 for £3,410,000. In March 2003 antiques valued at £2 million were stolen from Madresfield. A reward of up to £100,000 was offered for their return. Two people were later arrested for the burglary and detectives from Scotland Yard's specialist arts and antiques unit also recovered a large number of decorative boxes and rock crystal stolen in the burglary. In the raid thieves used a dinghy to get across the moat and then loaded the boat with antiques, art, silver, and porcelain.
Chapel & Church: The Chapel (1902-23) was commissioned from Birmingham artists and craftsmen and is widely regarded as the most complete, and possibly the most lovely, of all British Arts and Crafts achievements. The Beauchamp family are shown in murals in tempera by Henry Payne, with the reredos by W.H. Bidlake, the panels and altar frontal by G.M. Gere, and glass quarries by M. Lamplugh.
John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. V, 1822.
Country Life: XXI, 450, 1907. CLXVIII, 1338, 1458, 1551, 1980.
Title: In Celebration: The Art of the Country House
Author: Hearn, Karen; Upstone, Robert; Waterfield, Giles
Year Published: 1998
Publisher: London: Tate Gallery Publishing
Book Type: Softback
Title: Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992, The
Author: Sayer, Michael
Year Published: 1993
Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing)
Book Type: Hardback
House Listed: Grade I
Park Listed: Grade II
Current Seat / Home of: Lucy Chenevix-Trench
Past Seat / Home of: Frederick Lygon, 6th Earl Beauchamp, 1866-91; William Lygon, 7th Earl Beauchamp, 1891-1931. Rosalind, Lady Morrison, until 2012.
Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home
Ownership Details: Owned by the Trustees of the Madresfield Estate and managed by the Elmley Foundation.