Famed as the love nest of Charles II and Nell Gwyn and the legacy of their line, the de Vere Beauclerks, Dukes of St Albans, Bestwood Lodge has for centuries nestled within an aura of mystery, outshining the most imaginative of epics with real-life tales of kings and outlaws, secret romance and hidden plotting. A royal hunting lodge has graced the site since the times of Henry I (himself nicknamed ‘Beauclerc’), and the current gothic structure designed by ‘stylistic magpie’ Teulon was described by Marc Girouard as giving ‘the feeling of gazing through magic glasses at some prehistoric monster infinitely remote from the present age, which has been caught in its native habitat.’
With foundations in theatre and roots within the heart of the wilderness, the Lodge – now a hotel, restaurant and meeting space – has over various heydays naturally attracted pioneers, acting as a forum for the arts, science, politics and agriculture to interrogate each other, find common ground, and develop ideas of such magnitude we still feel their impact today – whether in literature or design, in lace, bicycles or running tap water.
Now, joint Artists in Residence Charles Beauclerk and Sarah Davenport are launching a year of activity designed to open the doors once again to Creativity and Restoration at Bestwood. The duo first met through a shared interest in Bestwood. Author and Shakespearean Charles is of the line of Charles II and Nell Gwyn, and his ancestors and relations stimulated both culture and industry in the area. Sarah grew up in the old stables connected to the Lodge, and its enchanting atmosphere inspired her to become an artist and designer.
Their opening salvo is an exhibition on 19th November entitled ‘A Celebration of the Forest’, to be introduced by painter Alexander Newley. The Conservatory will be revealed as a gallery for the first time, and the surrounding activity will introduce the philosophy of a dialogue between the arts, weaving together past, present and future. The occasion is intended to have the flavour of a masque, with theatre, music, art, eurythmy, and two ‘unveilings’, not to mention the launch of ‘The Shakespeare Academy’ – a new concept being developed by Charles and Sarah, who have both won a reputation in their chosen fields for challenging the status quo. Local, national and international artists will be featured in a unique atmosphere specially fashioned to embody the true meaning of the word academy, i.e., ‘sacred grove’.
Local artists and makers, musicians and writers as well as organic growers, brewers and suppliers are invited to get in touch for this and future occasions, as Bestwood Lodge and its gardens come alive, playing host to a variety of events to rival the finest gatherings of its heyday.
Just as the de Vere Beauclerk family motto reads, ‘Auspicium Melioris Aevi’ (‘A pledge of better times’), so the best of Bestwood is surely yet to come…
For further information or to request invitation: please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured Image: The Duke of St Albans with guests, Bestwood Lodge 1865