Compton Verney

Rachel Bailey gives Compton Verney in Warwickshire the stamp of approval for group visits, and makes some suggestions as to what groups can see there this year.

Compton Verney is a restored Grade I listed 18th century mansion surrounded by 120 acres of parkland which was landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

I hadn’t been before, and was pleasantly surprised at the demure grandeur as I crunched my way up a wide gravel driveway bordered by towering green trees and flowerbeds fresh from a trim.

The mansion houses an independent art gallery inside, and annually puts on a programme of exhibitions which will delight and inspire art groups.

The gardens as you see them are the result of an 11-year restoration project that is still ongoing to restore the landscape to the one that Capability Brown designed in the late 1700s.

Overall there is plenty for visitors to delve into in both the art gallery and in the grounds, plus there are a number of perks that groups will benefit from. Here are my suggestions as to how to make the most of your visit to Compton Verney in 2016.

Three temporary exhibitions you won’t want to miss

My visit to Compton Verney took place the day after the opening of Shakespeare in Art: Tempests, Tyrants and Tragedy, so I got a first look at what this exhibition, described as a marriage of theatre and art, has in store for visitors. 

As you might have guessed from the title, it’s a collection of art pieces inspired by Shakespeare, and has been organised in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of this year’s national commemorations of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death

This exhibition encompasses a range of paintings and theatrical installations, some of which feature commentaries or extracts from plays read by RSC actors.

Ophelias Ghost by Kristin and Davy McGuire

Pictured: Ophelias Ghost by Kristin and Davy McGuire.

My favourite piece in the exhibition is Ophelia’s Ghost by Kristin and Davy McGuire; keep an eye out for it – it’s quite haunting.

Shakespeare in Art: Tempests, Tyrants and Tragedy is running from now until 19th June, so make you sure you book a visit sooner rather than later so as to not miss out.

Another not-to-miss temporary exhibition is Picasso on Paper, an exhibition of 70 works by the artist Picasso that will be on display from 15th October until 11th December. The works in the exhibition date from the 1920s to the 1960s and reveal the range of Picasso’s printmaking and the technical innovations that drove his creativity.

Groups will also have the opportunity to learn about the relationship in art between the individual and the object in the British fifties, through Picasso images which focus on the domestic interior, and the social and cultural landscape across the country.

Running between the same dates will be Queen Victoria in Paris: Watercolours from the Royal Collection. This exhibition will present 44 watercolours focussing on Queen Victoria’s 1855 visit to Paris. Some of the paintings were given to her as gifts, others she later commissioned herself.

The watercolours, previously unseen, form an important snapshot of official art and taste in the Second Empire, and have been created by French artists to tell a story of the patronage of watercolour in France.

Get in touch with your inner ‘Capability’ Brown

As well as enjoying and learning from the various exhibitions on at Compton Verney this year, groups can wander the grounds and parkland of the estate to celebrate 300 years of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

Compton Verney’s park was re-landscaped by Brown in 1772 and many of his typical features still exist. Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund has allowed the restoration of pathways, the chapel and new information points throughout the grounds and welcome centre.

Groups are also able to discover more about the attraction’s wildlife by following board walks around the lake and past the new bird hide and dipping pond. Also new for 2016 is a series of orienteering routes that will be available in August. These routes will give visitors a structured journey around the parkland, in order to experience all its highlights.

Group benefits

So what benefits do groups get when visiting Compton Verney? Firstly, you’ll find a number of perks, including free coach parking, free admission for coach drivers, and fast-track tours available for coach parties, meaning you can skip the queue if it’s busy.

Secondly, there are discounted rates for group bookings of 15 or more, plus the chance to dine in the on-site award-winning Lawn Restaurant.

Private dining is also available in The Adam Hall or Old Servants Hall. Plus GTOs can also book space for morning coffee, and choose from three set lunch options prior to a visit to avoid the hassle of ordering on the day.

In addition to all this, all groups receive a free 15-minute introductory talk at the start of each visit, so you can discover how Compton Verney went from a stately home to a derelict estate and was then rescued and transformed into the gallery you see today.

There is also the opportunity to choose from a range of specialist talks that include a collections highlights tour which focuses on selected works from each of the six permanent collections, or a tour of the Compton Verney grounds.

GTOs should call 01926-645516 or e-mail to make a booking.

For further information visit