Madresfield Court

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Madresfield Court.

Madresfield Court is a Grade I country house in England, in the village of Madresfield near Malvern in Worcestershire.[1] The stately home, near the village centre, has been the ancestral home for several centuries of the Lygon family, whose eldest sons took the title of Earl Beauchamp from 1815 until 1979, when the last Earl died. Distinguished collections of furniture, art, and porcelain are housed at Madresfield, which was rated by Sir Simon Jenkins among the 50 best in his book on 1,000 historic houses.[2]
The house is managed by the Elmley Foundation, a British registered charity.[3]

Architectural history[edit]

The original Great Hall, built in the 12th century, stands at the core of this building. In 1593 Madresfield Court was rebuilt, replacing a 15th-century medieval building. It was again remodelled in the 19th century to resemble a moated Elizabethan house, with the result that it contains 136 rooms. The chapel was designed by the architect Philip Charles Hardwick and sumptuously decorated in the Arts and Crafts style by Birmingham Group artists including Henry Payne, William Bidlake and Charles March Gere. [3]

An inspiration for Brideshead and royal safehouse?[edit]

Madresfield was the home of the 7th Earl Beauchamp. Evelyn Waugh was a frequent guest to the house[4] and is said by Chips Channon in his diary[5] to have based the Flyte family in Brideshead Revisited on the Lygons.[6]
In January 2006, documents revealed by the National Archives showed that emergency plans were made to evacuate Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret of the British Royal Family to Madresfield in the event of a successful German invasion following the Dunkirk evacuation in 1940.[6]
Five years later, Worcestershire County Council’s Historic, Environment and Archaeology Service showed that the 1940 plan was simply part of pre-existing 1938 invasion contingency plans. In the event of an invasion breaking out of a likely lodgement in Kent and threatening London, the whole UK government would move to Worcestershire with the Royal family residing at Madresfield.[7]

The Elmley Foundation[edit]

Before her death in 1989, Countess Beauchamp, the widow of William Lygon, 8th Earl Beauchamp, the last Earl Beauchamp, endowed the Elmley Foundation to ensure the Court's many generations of tradition as a patron of the arts in Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Madresfield Court has never been sold or bought in all its long history, instead simply remaining in the hands of the Lygon family.[8]
Madresfield Court is currently (2009) the home of Rosalind, Lady Morrison, niece of the 8th and last Earl Beauchamp. A variety of apple, first cultivated at the house, and a variety of black table grape, are named Madresfield Court.
The house can be visited by appointment only, between April and July each year.[3]


  1. ^ "Madresfield Court". English Heritage list. English Heritage. Retrieved 21 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Simon Jenkins (2003) England's Thousand Best Houses, Allen Lane, ISBN 0-7139-9596-3
  3. ^ a b c "Madresfield Court". Elmley foundation. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  4. ^ Pryce-Jones, D. (1973) Evelyn Waugh and his World.
  5. ^ [1] Times Online
  6. ^ a b Ben Fenton (10 January 2006). "A Brideshead hideaway for princesses at war". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 August 2009. 
  7. ^ Neil Tweedie (20 January 2011). "Madresfield Court: The King's redoubt if Hitler called". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  8. ^ W. L. Beauchamp (1929), The Madresfield Muniments: With an Account of the Family and the Estates.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mulvagh, Jane (2008) "Madresfield: The Real Brideshead", Doubleday, London. Thousand year history of the Lygon family and their home.
  • Williams, Dorothy E. (2001) The Lygons of Madresfield Court Logaston Press. Archivist and Librarian to Madresfield Court 1976-99, Williams gives a vivid synthesis, local and national, of the eight earls, their families and forerunners.
  • Byrne, Paula (2009) Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, Harper Press. A study of the Lygon family and Madresfield Court as influences for Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited".

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°07′32″N 2°16′51″W / 52.125446°N 2.2808°W / 52.125446; -2.2808