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VISIT TO COUGHTON COURT, WARWICKSHIRE

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There were just 25 of us on this outing on this beautiful day, Friday 29th June 2018. We were the lucky ones. Apart from the return journey, which took 2½ hours compared with the 1¾ hours journey going there, it was a really great day out. It was made great by a winning combination of good venue plus good weather plus good company. Coughton Court is a gem. Before going on, it is perhaps worth confirming how the name is pronounced. It is not "Cout-on" or even Coff-ton" but "Coat-on". The oddity is not in the pronounciation but in the spelling for it was originally spelt 'Coton'. The name probably derived from cotum, old english for cottages. It was a common place name around England but the evolution into 'Coughton' for the nearby Warwickshire village (which used to be part of the estate) is rare, possibly unique.

Coughton Court has been the home of the Throckmorton family since 1409. The house has been owned by the National Trust since 1946 but the Throckmorton family still live in one of its wings. [The male line ended in 1989 so the baronetcy created in 1642 has become extinct.] It appears that the gardens, which are an important part of the attraction of the place, are still owned by the family but are maintained under an arrangement with the National Trust. Coughton Court is a big place but it is not a huge place. It allowed only 1 coach party a day. Entry into the house was organised into time slots, printed on our tickets, so that the flow into and around the house was smooth although, once in the house, we could take as long as we liked. Most of us took just over an hour to go around the house but some took quite a bit longer. The surrounds offered lovely walks for the energetic but most of us pottered around the lovely gardens, particularly the walled garden which was bursting with flowers. Fortunately, there was plenty of shade for it was one of the hottest days of the year. See here for a map of the place (in PDF format, opens on a new page), downloaded from the National Trust web site (which is linked to below).

Some of the rooms in the house contained volunteers who were able to advise us about the peculiarities of those rooms. In one of the main rooms, attention was drawn to the large 'priest hole' which was on 2 levels so that, if one was discovered, there was still a chance that the lower one would not be. The Throckmorton family were one of the leading Catholic families in the country and some of them were closely involved in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. [At that time, Coughton Court was let to Sir Everard Digby, one of the conspirators, whilst the plot's leader (Robert Catesby)'s mother was a Throckmorton of Coughton.] Outside, every hour or so, 2 volunteers gave talks lasting about 20 minutes. One was about the Gunpowder Plot whilst the other was about the history of the Court.
For more information, see National Trust ("Coughton Court") (here), Wikipedia ("Coughton Court") (here), Wikipedia ("Gunpowder Plot") (here).

Many thanks to David Mills for organising the trip. It was a real shame that he could not come on the day. Thanks were also given to Peter BG, for helping with the organisation in David's absence, and to the coach driver, Roger.

 

Reference Description  
E18J1 The front of Coughton Court. The gatehouse was built in or after 1536 using stones from Bordesley Abbey and Evesham Abbey.
E18J2 Photo from the top of the Gatehouse looking to the back, to the East. You can see below the courtyard which gave the place its name. The East wing at the back was badly damaged in the Civil War, was ransacked in 1688, and demolished in the 1780s. The present Throckmorton family live in the (North) Wing on the left. The rooms in the (South) Wing on the right were open to the Public.
E18J3 Looking to the remaining wings of the house from the courtyard.
E18J4 The South Wing contained some lovely rooms. Shown here are the Dining Room and the Saloon.
E18J5 "Made between sunrise and sunset"

In 1811, Sir John Throckmorton, the 5th baronet, "wagered 1,000 guineas that his estate staff could shear two of his sheep, spin and weave the wool, and dye, cut and stitch the cloth to make a finished coat - all between sunrise and sunset." Sir John won the bet! He did choose one of the longest days in the year, 25th June, but the job was done in less than 13½ hours so his people had some time to spare! The picture here (and the text shown above in quotes) was taken from NT's brochure on Coughton Court. The coat and the sign shown in the picture, together with a portrait of Sir John wearing the coat, were there to be seen in the saloon.
E18J6 It was a lovely day for strolling around the grounds but hot enough to make most of us spend time in the shade of the Café, where a modest but acceptable lunch could be had, or elsewhere around the stableyard. Quite a few icecreams were bought!

Thanks again to David for organising the day and to all those who joined us and helped make it a memorable day.