WELCOME to Chequers, beams Sir Edward Hulse, as he emerges from between two large lorries to greet us.

The place, he explains, is in chaos, courtesy of the BBC Production company, KBO Productions, who are unloading antique furniture and other paraphernalia onto the drive ready to transform some of the rooms into the Chequers of Churchill and Clemmie for a forthcoming BBC series called Churchill at War, a sequel to the award-winning drama, The Gathering Storm.

And we are not, of course, at Chequers, but at Breamore House, the stately Elizabethan manor which has been home to the Hulse family since 1748.

Sir Edward waves us past the set dressers in an "ignore them" sort of fashion and proceeds through the Great Hall to what once was the Stewards' Room with its magnificent carved stone fireplace and polished solid oak refectory table to talk about the Elizabethan provenance of the property.

This room, he tells us, would have been balanced out at the other end of the Great Hall, by a withdrawing room, now the Blue Drawing Room, such was the Elizabethan penchant for architectural symmetry.

Although the cellars of the property date back to an earlier time, the exterior of the manor house itself remains largely unchanged since it was completed by William Dodington in 1583.

Windows have been replaced and a library added (putting a spoke in the wheel of Elizabethan symmetry), but its exterior appearance is not vastly dissimilar to the way it would have looked when Elizabeth I reportedly dropped by on a visit from the Raleigh estate in nearby Downton.

Breamore House had been given by deed of gift from Elizabeth to Christopher Hatton, her principal advisor, but he never lived there and, within three months, it had become the property of the Dodingtons.

Not the luckiest of families, their story is one of suicide, matricide and execution.

"William committed suicide in 1601 by jumping off a church tower in the city of London," says Sir Edward, 74.

The property passed to his son, who left it to his wife, horrifying their son Henry, who expected the estate to stay with the male heir.

"Henry solved the problem by killing his mother but the punishment was hanging," says Sir Edward.

"The joke is that the property then went to his sister, Anne."

Anne was effectively the last of the Dodingtons and her marriage to the Earl of Warwick took her away from Hampshire, but one Dodington remains in situ.

The portrait of Christian Dodington, wife of the first William, hangs in the Great Hall not to be moved on pain of death.

Legend has it that she must remain at Breamore House - the sole condition of sale when the Hulse family took up the property - and few have tempted fate.

Certainly, she looked down on General Patten and his staff as they planned the D-Day landings and she is there still.

Look for her close to the curious portrait of Sir Thomas Coningesby, gorgeous in Elizabethan finery, and his dwarf Crickit.

Sir Thomas towers over Crickit, who looks disturbingly like a small child, and his left foot rests on a small dog.

But look closer still and you will note that Sir Thomas's left leg is not bent.

No need, chortles Sir Edward, because he had one leg shorter than the other and this was a cunning artist's trick to disguise the fact.

Moving on to the Blue Drawing Room, the interior décor gets more modern as we move from east to west, and the tone here is more Georgian.

But go upstairs, past the jolly picture of Elizabethan crowds enjoying the spectacle of a tooth extraction, to the Tudor wing for a taste of Elizabethan bedroom finery with majestic four-poster beds and wardrobes in carved oak. "This was period when the carving was fantastically good," enthuses Sir Edward. Above one bed head, a dark wood Lucifer looks down on those who slumber beneath.

"You could only have one devil in the room, so you always put a wooden one in - in case the real thing arrived," Sir Edward explains.

Just off to the left is the all-important powder room, exclusively for the use of applying the white powder affected by both sexes to achieve porcelain perfection of skin tone.

On the window ledge beside the bed, we catch sight of a cleaner's hand dusting in the room next door and realise the wall does not extend to the window. Elizabethans built their houses from the outside in, with little regard for how the rooms would be placed in relation to the windows, apparently.

Leaving the house via the kitchen (more Victorian than Elizabethan with its copper pots and pans, and dole spoon hanging ready to dish out scraps to the paupers who might come knocking at the door asking for succour), Sir Edward takes us past the thatched game larder to the formally laid out garden.

From here you can see the tall chimneys of the house and the marvellous view beyond to the New Forest.

It's not difficult to understand why Henry Dodington would kill to get his hands on a des res like this.

  • VISITORS to Breamore House over the next few weeks will be greeted by two dresses fit for a queen.

Both are stunning recreations of costumes worn by Queens of England - Mary Tudor and her half-sister, Elizabeth I - by costume historian and interpreter, Tanya Elliott.

Tanya was at the house earlier this month, giving a talk on the research and processes which go into her work, and the dresses will be on display until the end of the season.

The wedding dress of Mary Tudor, which took three years of meticulous research to recreate, had been commissioned by Winchester Cathedral where Bloody Mary married Philip of Spain. But the Elizabeth I dress is a special commission by Breamore House, emphasising the house's Elizabethan origins.

The inspiration for it came from a portrait of Elizabeth which hangs in Parham House and was painted towards the end of her reign.

"The big Elizabethan ruff and big wheel farthingale suggest it is towards the end of the 16th century," explains Tanya.

"You can never get the fabrics which are exactly right - it's nigh on impossible - but I found a couple which are almost identical."

The skirt is made of cloth of gold and the bodice is silk embroidered with gold thread.

The ruff is ten metres of pure silk organza concertina-ed into shape and finished with handmade lace.

Hours of research go into the recreation of each costume, and Tanya tries to be exact down to every last detail including underwear and corsetry.

"They didn't wear drawers particularly but they did wear linen shifts and a corset on top of that," she says.

Each costume takes about three weeks to make once a series of toiles or mock-ups have been fashioned to make sure the design is correct.

"The skirt fabric costs about £100 a metre, so you have to be sure before you cut into expensive material," she adds. "By the time you cut the final outfit, you are quite quick because you have already made it several times."

Recreating the Mary Tudor dress turned into something of a detective story as there are no portraits of the bride on her big day. So Tanya relied on eye witness reports to gradually piece together the clues available.

"You get to know these women intimately," she says.