Coughton Court – National Trust

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July, 2017

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Standing in 25 acres of ground, Coughton Court is the home of a Catholic family who refused to renounce their faith and practice during the reformation. It was gifted to the National Trust in 1946 by the Throckmorton family.

Since 1409, the estate has been owned by the Throckmorton family who were very highly connected. The estate was acquired through marriage to the De Spinney family. Katherine Vaux, who married Sir George Throckmorton in the early 16th century and who was the aunt of Katherine Parr, the 6th wife of Henry VIII. She had 19 children and 112 grandchildren.

I must say, driving towards Coughton, it looks quite spectacular from the road. The NT have been re-servicing the North Wing, which is part of the house where the resident Throckmortons live, and is not open to the public.

It is believed that there was a medieval house on the site when John de Throckmorton arrived in 1409. Coughton is one of the UK’s oldest, remaining Roman Catholic houses to retain its historic treasures and has one of the best collections of portraits and memorabilia in a family home from Tudor times. On display, a chemise, said to have been worn by Mary Queen of Scots when she was executed and a bishop’s velvet Cope embroidered in gold – needlework believed to have worked on by Catherine of Aragon and her ladies-in-waiting. There is the original abdication letter of King Edward VIII in 1936.

A sixteenth century, flamboyant gate tower was dedicated to King Henry VIII by Throckmorton, a favourite of the King. The moat was filled in when changes were made in the 18th century, by Sir Robert Throckmorton. It is said that ladies are thought to have fished from their bedroom windows! Of course, Throckmorton became notorious because of his fatal involvement in the divorce between King Henry and Catherine of Aragon. Throckmorton favoured the Queen and was against the Reformation.

A sixteenth century priest hole was only re-discovered in the Tower Room in 1858. When it was completely opened up in 1910, a rope ladder was still in place, as was a small tapestry, bedding, and a folding chair.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the great collection of hats in the entrance hall. These were collected by Mrs McLaren-Throckmorton on her travels around the world with her late husband, and more recently, by her butler Karl.

Bess Throckmorton, the daughter of Anne Carew and Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, was Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Elizabeth I. She secretly married Sir Walter Raleigh in 1591. The Queen was furious and both of them were sent to the Tower of London.
(When Raleigh was executed in 1618 Bess was rumoured to carry his embalmed head around with her in a red leather sack).

When you step outside, you find a garden full of wonderful colours with something for everyone to enjoy throughout the seasons. You will discover herbaceous borders, ferns around the lake, a bog garden and vegetable garden.

The Walled Garden takes you into experiences of a Rose Labyrinth, Pool Garden and Early Summer Garden. Alan Titchmarsh opened the Walled Garden in 1996. This also contains a recent sculpture by Rose Musgrave, the ‘Tsunami Noni’ – in the Pool Garden. Mrs McLaren- Throckmorton and her late husband saw this in Exeter Cathedral in 2005. The sculpture was carved from a single piece of limestone over 140 million years old. It is a lasting memory to the victims of the Asian Tsunami in 2004.

In 2016 the Red and White Gardens were re-designed into one space.

We popped over to St Peter’s Church, a short distance from the house. This was built on a Norman site and was rebuilt and styled in the late fifteenth/early sixteenth century. Money was left by Sir Robert Throckmorton to glaze the east window. Much of the original glass can still be seen. Robert throckton died in the Holy Land in 1518, but his tomb is in the nave, as are other members of the family. There is another church nearby but we didn’t have time to go along to that one.

Finally, I guess after all the rich and turbulent history, you may be wondering if Coughton has any ghosts wandering around?

There is a tale of a couple driving along the road near the Court, when they spotted a pale, middle aged woman standing by the roadside wearing a beige raincoat. She stepped out onto the road and then vanished! The same figure has also been seen pushing a bike and a motorist was reported to have hit her as she stepped out from nowhere. He crashed his car as he tried to avoid her. A villager, first on the scene, reassured the driver that he was one of several people to have encountered the ghost that month.

A phantom coach has also been seen along the road.

The Tapestry Room was said to have a ghost of the ‘Pink Lady’ whose footsteps could be heard echoing down the corridors. However, an exorcism was done in the early 1900’s and she hasn’t been seen since!

Someone walking in the churchyard saw a woman in a gold/brown and bright blue dress which was very old fashioned. She had long dark hair then disappeared as quick as she had appeared. The greatest surprise was when the person who saw her, came face to face with her picture in the house – Lucy Throckmorton!

Hope this has whetted your appetite for a visit?

Caroline Hutchings

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