Coughton Court (pronounced coat-on) is a National Trust Country House a few miles south of Redditch in Warwickshire. I have visited once before in 2016 but needed a refresher visit before writing about it and the sunny weather has so far held, allowing me a bright sunny if not slightly too hot, visit to Coughton.
A Little History
The Coughton Estate predates the 15th Century though it has been occupied by the Throckmorton family since 1409, when John Throckmorton a lawyer who fought in France during Henry V’s Agincourt campaign, married Eleanor de Spiney, a wealthy heiress.
Construction of the house began during the 1510-30s when Sir Robert Throckmorton, who backed the Henry VII during the Wars of the Rose began construction of the gatehouse. Sir Robert Throckmorton was rewarded by Henry VII by being knighted and appointed to the Privy Council. After his death, his son George Throckmorton inherited the estate and served in the Royal Household of Henry VIII, he was also knighted in 1526. After the Reformation when Henry VIII broke from Papal Rome and formed the Church of England, Sir George remained a staunch Catholic and after opposing the King’s relationship with Anne Boleyn, retired to Coughton on the advise of Thomas Cromwell. Sir George led a quiet life away from court until 1536 where he supported the Pilgrimage of Grace; a Catholic rebellion in the north of England, after which he was arrested but escaped execution by apologising to the King.
The Throckmorton family held fast to their Catholic beliefs during a time when Catholic’s were persecuted for their beliefs. Francis Throckmorton supported plans for a Spanish invasion to depose Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots and was arrested and executed in 1584 at Tyburn as a result. In 1581 the estate was inherited by Thomas Throckmorton who for a time was arrested for his Catholic beliefs, and was the cousin of four of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators, with a further link to the conspirators after renting the estate to Sir Everard Digby.
During the English Civil War Sir Robert Throckmorton 1st Baronet was a Royalist supporter, however in 1642 the house was occupied by a Parliamentary garrison, bombarded by a Royalist force and confiscated from the Throckmortons by Parliament. Thankfully the 1st Baronet’s son Francis was able to recover the estate and restored the house to a habitable state.
In 1688, anti-Catholic mob destroyed the east wing of the property which has housed a Catholic chapel, this was left in a derelict state until it was demolished in the 1780s when the 4th Baronet Robert, undertook a remodel of the house, rebuilding either side of the gatehouse and adding some gothick features to the property.
The estate passed between many further generations of the Throckmorton family to the mid 20th Century, where in 1946 it was transferred to the National Trust with a 300 year lease to the family. The estate is now open to the public all year round.
When visiting Coughton Court entry to the house is via timed tickets rather than free flow, this stops the house being too full which can sometimes be the case and allows you to have enough space to the available rooms. It is not a huge house and only half of the building is accessible to visitors, with one wing of the house being the private rooms of the Throckmorton family.
The Front Hall
You enter the house from the courtyard side of the property, between the two wings that make up the house which was originally enclosed on all sides until the east wing was damaged in a fire in 1688 and demolished in the 1780s. The first room you enter is the Front Hall in the Tudor gatehouse.
The Front Hall was once open on either side as a passageway, before being closed up in the 1780s by the 4th Baronet, when the room was decorated in a gothic style with faux-masonry made from plaster. It was later remodelled again in 1835 when it was turned into a carriageway, with the present doors being installed. The ceiling is quite ornate, designed in a fan-vaulted style, again with plaster made to resemble stone and gives the room a distinctly medieval feel, when accompanied with the coloured glass in the top of the oak door.
Moving from the Front Hall you enter the staircase, where you walk up the flights of stairs to see the Blue Drawing Room, Tower Room and the roof of the gatehouse tower.
The Blue Drawing Room
The Blue Drawing Room is located on the first floor of the Gatehouse, with large windows on either side offering an abundance of light and views over the surrounding land. The window on the west side of the room was blocked up in the 1830s to keep out draughts, and later reopened in 1956.
The room is aptly named due to it’s decor, and is home to a delightful french chandelier from the mid 1800s. In the corner of the room by the entrance is a spiral stone staircase leading up to the Tower Room and from which you can also access the roof, with spectacular views of the estate and surrounding Warwickshire countryside.
The Tower Room
The Tower Room occupies the upper floor of the Tudor gatehouse. During the Elizabethan times this was most likely used as a chapel for secret Mass by the Catholic Throckmorton’s, where the roof could be used as a lookout to ensure they were not discovered in the midst of their forbidden worship. Should they be discovered, a secret hiding place was built into one of the turrets.
From another of the turrets you can walk up to the gatehouse roof, after viewing both the Tower Room and the Roof, you walk back down the staircase to the First Floor where you enter into the Dining Room.
The Dining Room
The Dining Room is a large room decorated with wooden panelling, it became the dining room in the 19th Century much to the chagrin of the household staff who would have had to transport foods from the kitchen 100 metres away in another part of the house. Before becoming the dining room, the room would have been the principle reception space used for entertaining important guests.
A door on the side of the Dining Room leads off to an ante-room then the Tapestry Bedroom.
The Tapestry Bedroom and Ante Room
The Tapestry Bedroom and Ante Room were added to the house in the late 1600’s, and later partitioned before having their original dimensions reinstated in 1975. The Tapestry Bedroom has a varied range of furnishings, including a Victorian bed, 16th century armoire (wardrobe) and tapestry, and portraits from the 18th century.
Leaving the ante room you return back into the dining room, through a set of double doors and into a small room known was the Tribune, where various artefacts relating to the Throckmorton’s Catholic heritage, including a 16th century cope (ecclesiastic cloak) said to be the work of Katherine of Aragon, first wife of King Henry VIII, and also the chemise belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots who was executed by Queen Elizabeth I in 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle.
After the Tribune, you return to the main staircase to the ground floor and enter into the Saloon via a small corridor, before exiting the house.
The Saloon is an impressive room with a large fireplace, stunning pair of chandeliers, decorated with red wall covering and portraits of the Throckmorton family from the 19th and 20th century. The room was renovated into it’s current form in 1910 by William Throckmorton and is currently used for family celebrations and public concerts.
Originally this was the Great Hall of the Tudor house, used for entertainment by the whole household for special events and may also have been used as a Chapel at various points in the time, before the construction of the of the Catholic Church of St’s Peter, Paul and Elizabeth in 1851.
Leaving the house you return to the courtyard afterwhich you can view the many outdoor areas including the formal garden, walled garden and two churches; one Anglican and one Catholic.
- https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coughton-court – Coughton Court National Trust Website
- http://www.nationaltrustimages.org.uk/search?term=coughton+court&filters= – Coughton Court National Trust Images