Wimpole Hall is staging a production of a play which was last performed nearly 200 years ago.

Called The Woodcutter, or Three Wishes, the play was written in 1797 by Wimpole Hall resident Elizabeth Hardwicke as a form of private family entertainment.

It was first performed at Wimpole Hall and later at the family's other property - Wrest Park in Bedfordshire.

Royston Crow: The manuscript of The Woodcutter, written in 1797The manuscript of The Woodcutter, written in 1797 (Image: University of Oxford)

Since the play was last performed, the manuscript sat forgotten in the Bedfordshire archives until it was rediscovered by a research team from the National Trust, English Heritage and the University of Oxford.

Project leader Christine Gerrard, professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford, said: "This project is exciting not just from an academic but from a heritage point of view, bridging two organisations.

"It’s uncommon to be so deeply collaborative, but working closely with the National Trust and English Heritage helps to make sure visitors understand the animated family history at these two famous properties – and appreciate that a historic house is more than just beautifully preserved bricks and mortar, but a family home with a vibrant history."

Royston Crow: The manuscript of The Woodcutter, written by Elizabeth HardwickeThe manuscript of The Woodcutter, written by Elizabeth Hardwicke (Image: University of Oxford)

The project is part of a collaboration funded by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), led by Professor Gerrard and Dr Jemima Hubberstey.

Performances will take place at 10.30am and 2.30pm at Wimpole Hall on June 12 and 13, and at Wrest Park on June 14.

The play will be directed and performed by undergraduate students at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.


Attendance is free with entry, and no booking is required.

Dr Jane Eade, cultural heritage curator at the National Trust for the Midlands and East of England, said: "Wimpole is one of the East of England’s most visited properties and we’re always looking at ways to bring alive the history of the site and its family to our visitors.

"It’s exciting to work with researchers in this way, and be part of the journey as we bring to life a forgotten, dog-eared manuscript to bring the history of Wimpole alive, and working alongside the team here has culminated in a very exciting project."