Faith and elegance at Coughton Court

Coughton Court, with its sixteenth-century gate tower flanked by eighteenth-century neo-Gothic wings. ©NTPL/Robert Morris

Coughton Court, in Warwickshire, has been associated with the Throckmorton family since 1409. The wealth of the Throckmortons increased during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but following the Reformation their Catholic faith increasingly caused them to be persecuted and fined.

The Tower Room, where Mass was celebrated in secret during the period when Catholicism was prohibited in England. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Catholic priests were hidden at the house and Mass continued to be celebrated there.

The Saloon. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

Sir Francis Throckmorton (1554-1584) was executed for his alleged involvement in a plan to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. Sir Thomas Throckmorton (1539-1607) was associated with those behind the Gunpowder Plot, the 1605 conspiracy to blow up the Palace of Westminster and King James I.

Portrait of Anne Frances Throckmorton, Prioress of the English Augustinian Convent of Notre-Dame-de-Sion, Paris, by Nicolas de Largillière, c. 1729 (inv. no. 135583), hung above a Chippendale-style seat that can also be used as library steps (inv. no. 135342), in the Blue Drawing Room. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

The house was also besieged by Parliamentary troops during the Civil War.

The Blue Drawing Room, with a portrait of Sir Robert Throckmorton, 4th Bt., by Nicolas de Largillière, c. 1729 (inv. no. 135620), over the fireplace. ©NTPL/Andreas von Einsiedel

After all that upheaval the Throckmorton family managed to rebuild its fortunes through some judicious marriages. Neo-Gothic wings were added to the house in the 1780s and in the Victorian period a Catholic chapel was built close by. Members of the Throckmorton family still live at Coughton today.

15 Responses to “Faith and elegance at Coughton Court”

  1. Josje Says:

    I so enjoy your posts Emile. The photos are a great source of information and inspiration for the dolls house I am building, even though I am building a Dutch canal house.
    I noticed the paintings are hung from metal rods. Do you know why that is done?

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Josje, I am so glad that you are finding this useful. So now your Dutch canal house will start to develop all these curious English features 🙂

    But in fact the walnut and elm chest on stand in the lower right-hand corner of the image of the Saloon could possibly be Dutch or Dutch-inspired – although I say that with caution as I am not an expert on that particular subject. You can see a bigger image of it here:

    As for the metal picture rails, presumably they were used so you could have multiple pictures on the same wall and move them around relatively easily without damaging your expensive wallcoverings. The gadget-like nature of these picture rails makes me wonder whether they were a Victorian invention, but I will ask a colleague who knows more about such things. In some Victorian and Edwardian houses picture rails were actually built into the walls at cornice level, as a kind of groove.

  3. Margaret McAvoy Says:

    Dear Emile:
    I, like Josje, so enjoy your posts. So many interesting bits and pieces of which to learn! I wondered if you might have additional details regarding the Chippendale-style bench (your no.135342) in the Blue Drawing Room. It’s stunning, and it surprises me that no furniture maker has reproduced it (or perhaps I’m simply not aware of it). Have you any photos that show it converted into the library steps? And is the fabric at the apron of the seat the same pattern, in needlework, as the back of the bench? A marvelous photo for such a simple composition! I will post about this in the next few days, and will provide a link to your site. Thank you so much for all of your time and energy with this site, and with all of my questions! Many blessings and kind regards!

    Margaret McAvoy

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Margaret, yes isn’t that a great image? It is a classic Andreas von Einsiedel photograph: he is extremely good at composing his images and his interior shots always coax the maximum amount of charisma from a room.

    And as you say it is interesting how the front of the seat picks up the fretwork pattern of the back – that band of embroidery may have been added in the twentieth century, but I think it is rather sympathetic. The subtle colours of the dado and the wall may also be a twentieth-century decorative scheme (similar to the kind of colours John Fowler might have used) – but I am not sure as the guidebook to Coughton is currently being rewritten and I haven’t been able to consult the old one.

    As you probably know, one can encounter versions of that fretwork pattern in the glazed doors of eighteenth-century cabinets and bookcases. It looks a bit like a floor tile pattern, but I don’t know whether it is actually derived from that or not.

    I have found an image showing how the seat can be used as steps, which I will try to post soon. It seems that it is simply turned over on its left side, which then reveals ‘treads’ set between the central three sets of front and back legs. It looks highly unstable and dangerous to me – but then the Throckmortons had faced so many religious, political and dynastic tribulations over the centuries that a wobbly set of library steps was presumably not worth worrying about 🙂

    The database record of the seat-cum-steps is here:

  5. Parnassus Says:

    A lighter touch than in some of the more Baroque homes you have featured lately. Neither style is necessarily better; it depends on your mood that day. I too am taken with that library step/bench, although I find the chains that the picture above is hanging from distinctly unpleasant and non-domestic, rare wall-coverings or not!
    –Road to Parnassus

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    So absolutely no picture rails, ever, du côté de chez Parnassus, then 🙂

  7. KDM Says:

    Fantastic – love those ancient Catholic English (and Scotch)familes – so romantic.

  8. HRH The Duchess of State Says:

    What a roudy bunch! and what a beatiful estate.. Enjoyed the post very much as usual dahhling!

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Keith & HRH, thank you – although I don’t think ‘rowdy’ is the right word for Prioress Anne Frances Throckmorton 🙂 Sir Thomas Throckmorton seems to have been a fairly unpleasant personality, and might be labelled rowdy. But as with all families that one can trace the history of, there appear to be some saints as well as some sinners, and quite a lot in between.

  10. Toby Worthington Says:

    The others have beaten me to it, in comments about the juxtaposition of Prioress Anne and that handsome Chippendale
    bench. Superb photograph, that!

    But Parnassus, do come off that high horse why don’t you,
    and admit that the picture hanging chains are an enhancement
    to vertical compositions, and not the least bit distracting.

  11. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Aha, someone coming out in defence of picture rails! Toby, you wouldn’t know when picture rails first came in, would you? I have been asking various colleagues, but I haven’t had a clear answer yet.

  12. Margaret McAvoy Says:

    Dear Emile:
    Many, many thanks for posting your response, as well as the link for additional photo. I looked at it almost immediately, but have been remiss in thanking you! After viewing the link, I poked about a bit through the database, and was the proverbial “kid in the candy store”! The page of library steps alone made me weak in the knees! Thank you for these tasty morsels!

    With kind regards:
    Margaret McAvoy

  13. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Excellent, I am posting more on the subject today (but you have probably found them all already on the database :)).

  14. visitinghousesandgardens Says:

    I haven’t been to Coughton (yet) but it very much reminds me of Broughton (not NT but a HHA member, so sorry for the plug for a lesser-known but very much worthwhile house to visit). Would I be right they share some characteristics (early centre, Georgian changes).

  15. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Thanks for that link, and yes there do seem to be some similarites in how both houses have developed. I will try to investigate if there are any direct links.

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