I’m guessing you may not have heard of Coughton Court. But this delightful and overlooked historic property in Warwickshire has played host to some important moments from English history – for all the wrong reasons!
Who lived at Coughton Court?
Coughton Court is home to the Thockmorton family.
If you’re a bit of a Tudor history buff like me then the name Throckmorton may ring a bell. Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was a key diplomat and politician at the court of Elizabeth I.
I was surprised to learn that Nicholas was the Protestant black sheep of his family, and the Throckmortons were renowned Roman Catholics (but that kinda explained all the plots!). In fact, the Throckmortons are one of the oldest Roman Catholic families in England.
The Gunpowder Plot
The Throckmortons were also heavily involved in the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. Two of the key conspirators – Robert Catesby and Francis Tresham – were first cousins. Their mothers were Muriel and Anne Throckmorton. Their father was Sir Robert Throckmorton – brother to Sir Nicholas. Fellow plotters Robert and Thomas Wintour were also related to the family.
Part of the plot involved kidnapping the Princess Elizabeth from Coombe Abbey. Another plotter, Sir Everard Digby, leased Coughton Court and moved in with his family in October 1605 in order to plan for this part of the plot. Arms, ammunition and horses were stored at Coughton Court ready for the uprising that was meant to follow the assassination of James I.
It was in the gatehouse that the family and associates of the plotters received the news of the plot’s failure early on 6 November 1605.
How old is Coughton Court?
Coughton has it all. A half-timbered courtyard, an impressive battlemented gatehouse, and TWO churches!
The gatehouse at Coughton was built in 1536. To either side of the gatehouse are two wings which bend around to the rear to form a courtyard. There was originally a fourth wing, completing the courtyard square, but this wing was destroyed in 1688.
What are the highlights of Coughton Court?
The Tower Room
I loved the Tower Room. Its actually not a tower but the upper room in the Tudor gatehouse and would have been used as a banqueting room. It would probably have also served as a makeshift Catholic chapel. From here they would have been able to see approaching horseman and hide whatever (or whoever) they needed to!
In the north east turret of the Tower Room you will find a priest hole. This one is actually a ‘double-layer’ priest hole, with one compartment above the other. If the first was discovered by priest hunters, then the second might be overlooked.
The upper compartment was rediscovered in 1858, but the lower compartment was not discovered until 1910. Several items were found in it, including a folding altar made of leather.
Is it possible to love a room just because of a Tudor staircase? Yes it is.
However, this Elizabethan double staircase is not original to Coughton. It actually comes from nearby Harvington Hall, another Throckmorton family home. Harvington was where the family’s Catholic chaplains lived – its amazing to think of them going up and down this staircase everyday.
Originally this room would have been the great hall of the Tudor house.
I use the term historical relics very loosely here. You can find the supposed chemise in which Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded (noticeably lacking any blood stains) and a cope that was embroidered by Catherine of Aragon.
Outside of the house the delights continued! I was VERY happy to discover the estate had not one, but TWO churches.
St Peter’s Church was built in the late 15th Century and was originally a Catholic church, but following The Reformation it became an Anglican church.
After the emancipation acts the family decided to build a Catholic Church. The church of St Peter, St Paul and St Elizabeth was built in 1857.
And another thing that made Coughton Court really special? Its something that rarely gets the appreciation it deserves – the AMAZING volunteers.
All the volunteers are so friendly and knowledgeable, but I found it really nice that there were several volunteers closer to my age. I had a long chat with a lovely volunteer called Lizzie who specialised in early modern queens as part of her history degree. We had a great moan about the Mary, Queen of Scots film!
I’ve been lucky enough to explore a lot of historical Warwickshire recently. As well as Coughton Court I’ve been to nearby Charlecote Park and Baddesley Clinton. But which one would I recommend out of the three?
I would honestly recommend Coughton Court. I loved visiting all three National Trust properties but there was just something about Coughton that grabbed me!
Its the same entry price for all three properties but I think Coughton Court represented best value for money. Baddesley Clinton was certainly picturesque but I felt there was more to see at the other properties. And I actually enjoyed the gardens and outdoor space at Coughton too – which is a bit of a rarity for me. And don’t forget Coughton has two churches!
So tell me, which one would you pick?