Last Sunday Franc and I visited the National Trust property Coughton Court. We had been pronouncing it wrong like ahem, “cough” but it is actually “Coat-un” a phrase which unfortunately means farm or settlement known for hunting woodcock and game. It is with relief that their Facebook page only brags about the size of the garden’s pumpkins. They are not wrong.
It is a stunning country house set in 25 acres and has been home to the Throckmorton family since 1409. The National Trust tagline is “An imposing Tudor house set in beautiful gardens with a collection of Catholic treasures”.
Though its impressive tower is 16th century:
The nearby churches, Left is the Catholic church of St Peter, Paul & Elizabeth where the Throckmortons still attend and on the right is purely St Peter’s, oddly the closest to Coughton Court:
The first owners of Coughton Court were Sir George Throckmorton and his wife Katherine:
It was obviously a happy union since despite him having to gad about in tricky armour they managed to have 19 children (11 girls and 8 boys). All of the kids survived, a rarity in those days of yore, and the couple were blessed with 112 grandchildren. Even a house of this grand size probably had to have separate sittings on Christmas Day.
On my second visit to Coughton Court I met two senior American sisters from Vermont who were descendants of the original Mrs Throckmorton (nee Vaux) and have flown over several times to pay pilgrimage to the couples’ tomb. None of the ladies had gone above 3 children of their own.
This 1590s priest hole has a concealed compartment so that anyone looking in would not think to check below where a scared priest would have been hiding from persecution whilst clutching the rosary. A Catholic family themselves, The Throckmortons were sympathetic to the bretherens’ plight and gladly took them in when they came a-knocking.
The history behind why Catholic priests were sought out and killed is referenced here in my previous Baddesley Clinton blog, another posh mansion hiding men of the cloth in the nearby area: https://wordpress.com/post/travellingveganmystic.wordpress.com/6857.
When priests weren’t in the hidey hole they would be conducting mass for the Throckmortons in the Tower Room, ready to easily drop down into place should the authorities make a surprise visit:
Coughton Court is also known for its 1605 Gunpowder Plot association. Catholics desperately wanted to return to practicing their faith out in the open but had been banned thanks to King Henry VIII’s law, continued by Elizabeth I. Newcomer King James I agreed the penalties against Catholics should be revoked and there was a collective sigh of relief from those belonging to The One True Faith as they went about their open worship. Shortly afterwards however, the King’s hand was forced by pressure from the Privy Council and even meaner rulings came in for Catholics.
Robert Catesby, son of Sir William and Anne (née Throckmorton) Catesby was furious. His father had been imprisoned for practicing Catholicism and he himself had had to leave Oxford University before completing his degree because graduation meant swearing the Protestant Oath of Supremacy.
He could not just sit around. He had to do something and so he headed up a like minded group (including a few others with links to the Throckmortons) intent on blowing up the Houses of Parliament with James I in it. The famous Guy Fawkes was put in charge of the explosives but the masterplan was foiled after a letter warning a fellow Catholic, Lord Monteagle, not to enter the building on that particular day got passed to the King’s aid. By Monteagle himself. Fawkes jumped from the gallows rather than be hung, drawn and quartered and Catesbury had his head displayed outside Parliament as a warning to other would-be fire bombers.
Previously in 1584 there was another Throckmorton linked plot against a royal. Francis Throckmorton wanted to overthrow Elizabeth I and get the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots onto the throne sharpish. He wanted the help of English Catholics in France and Spain where he travelled to enlist some. Again this plot was foiled as Elizabeth I’s spymaster copped on and arranged for Francis to be tortured into confessing his intention before being executed.
Francis Throckmorton is featured in “Elizabeth the Golden Age” staring Cate Blanchett. He is shown asking for assistance from his cousin Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting and later the wife of Sir Walter Raleigh:
Views from the tower deck:
Grandfather clock in Bluebell Wood.
Nearby churches – St Peter’s Church of England Church (right) and St Peter, Paul & Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church (left).
The current owner of Coughton Court is Elizabeth Clare McLaren-Throckmorton, QC. Her sister Felicity married the genius that was Roald Dahl. Whilst this photograph shows him physically on the premises, behind those closed lids he was a thousand miles away devising his next magnum opus.