I enjoy researching and writing about history, folklore, customs and my outdoor adventures.
Located in Warwickshire between Studley and Alcester, Coughton Court (pronounced coh-tun) is a familiar sight for anyone travelling along the A435. Built with warm ashlar of Cotswold stone, the frontage glows a golden hue when the sun touches it. At its centre, the Tudor gatehouse is one of the finest in the country, and the Court's gardens have received many prestigious awards.
Famed for its association with the Gunpowder Plot and Guy Fawkes, it also houses some treasures from the days when Catholics were persecuted in Tudor England, including the execution gown of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Folklore in the area has told of a tragedy that befell the estate, and like so many stories, it turns out that this story speaks of an actual historical event.
The local folklore and Throckmorton family tradition claims that at the moment of the estate's heir's death, the stone shield fell from the Tudor gatehouse; an omen that Lt. Col. Throckmorton had fallen in battle.
The Tudor gatehouse stands at a central focal point, around which the rest of Coughton Court has been built. Dating from a short time after 1536, it was built from stones from nearby Bordesley Abbey and Evesham Abbey, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries Act of 1536, whereby Henry VIII ordered their demolition. As the Church of England was established, Catholics were persecuted by the new church, as Henry forged his independence from the papal church of Rome. Coughton Court became a safe place and centre for rebellion as it opposed the Reformation.
A stone carving of the Throckmorton coat of arms once decorated the gatehouse above the door to the Court. Unlike the more recent crest, decorated with an elephant's head and chevron, this shield bore three gates, a hand, and a chevron.
It would be a terrible omen should anything happen to it.
War in Europe
In 1914, war broke out in Europe. Known as The Great War, and later the 'First World War,' it has been remembered as one of the most distressing conflicts of modern times. Rural Britain, in particular, was hit hard as men from villages previously used to plough and harrow would sign up to fight and die together in the same regiment. Some villages lost all of their men, and many of those lucky enough to return suffered from terrible physical and psychological injuries and were unfit to return to their agricultural lives. Many became homeless vagrants.
Lieutenant-Colonel Richard 'Courtenay' Brabazon Throckmorton was heir to the estate and a veteran of combat. Son of the 10th Baronet, Sir Richard Throckmorton, he served as a career soldier for twenty years before retiring in 1907.
The call of duty was answered by Lt. Col. Throckmorton, who signed up to serve with his old battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Like so many, he and the brave men of Coughton answered the call to defend King and country and paid the ultimate price.
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His commanding officer, a brave man, said he was 'as brave as a lion, and his contempt for bullets was supreme'. He fought in the battle of Gallipoli and then took the lead of a battalion, which was sent into Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).
At this point, a sniper's bullet found its mark, and Lt. Col. Throckmorton was shot. He died aged 49 on 9th April 1916.
The local folklore and Throckmorton family tradition claim that at the moment of the estate's heir's death, the stone shield fell from the Tudor gatehouse, an omen that Lt. Col. Throckmorton had fallen in battle.
The crest has never been put back up. Instead, it sits within the gatehouse next to an old grandfather clock, as a reminder of this terrible time of war and loss.
A Farewell to Arms
2016 marks 100 years since the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Richard 'Courtenay' Brabazon Throckmorton, heir to the Coughton Court estate, during the First World War.
To mark the centenary, the House wanted to mark the occasion and remember the men who didn't make it home. A dining table has been laid as if for a dinner party, with stories of Lt. Col. Throckmorton, along with four other men from the estate whose names are found on the war memorial in Coughton.
Artist, Jennifer Collier, produced a floral display made of copies of papers relating to the men killed in battle. As centrepiece for the dining table, the papers have been folded into delicate blooms, made from sheets detailing maps of the battles in which they fought, and medal cards.
Rich and poor fought together during one of Europe's bloodiest conflicts, and death spared none of them.
A moving and poignant tribute to their bravery and memories.
Visiting Coughton Court
Open Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 - 17:00
Closed some other days, see website for details.
House and gardens £11.50 per adult wishing to Giftaid, £5.70 per child, or £28.70 for a family ticket.
Gardens only £7.80 per adult wishing to Giftaid, £3.90 per child, or £19.50 for a family ticket.
Free for National Trust members.
- Gift shop.
- Restaurant serving hot and cold meals, hot, cold, and alcoholic beverages, snacks, cream teas, and cakes.
- Second-hand book shop.
- Ice-cream stall.
- Toilet facilities, including baby-changing, and disabled toilets.
- Plant sales.
- Free parking on site.
- Picnic area.
- River walk and forest walk.
- Games for children.
- Dogs welcome, but not in house, stableyard, or gardens.
- Some disabled access. Please note the Tudor house has many stairs, and the stableyard is covered in gravel which may make mobility difficult.
Details are correct as of time of publishing, please check with Coughton Court's website when planning your trip to check opening hours, prices, and other information.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Pollyanna Jones
Pollyanna Jones (author) from United Kingdom on October 28, 2018:
Thank you Lobsterthermidor, that is really interesting. As you can appreciate, I've written this in layman's terms, to tie in with the folklore around the house (and the nearby pub!). I'd assume the Baronet title was purchased from King James in order to raise funds for armies in Ireland, hence the red hand of Ulster?
Lobsterthermidor on September 29, 2018:
The arms shown are those of Sir Robert Throckmorton 3rd Baronet (1662–1720), who married Mary Yate, a daughter of Sir Charles Yate, 3rd Baronet. The arms show Throckmorton ''Gules, on a chevron argent three bars gemelles sable'', with a canton of the Red Hand of Ulster for a baronet; impaling canting arms of Yate: ''Argent, a fess between 3 gates sable''. The sculpted item is of course an escutcheon, not a crest, the crest of Throckmorton (''A falcon rising proper'', sometimes shown as ''An elephant's head'') is here missing and would have been on top of the helmet.
Francis Young on August 11, 2016:
Fascinating. I covered family legends of English Catholic families in my 'English Catholics and the Supernatural' (2013) but only before 1829. 'Death fetch' stories like these are not unknown amongst non-Catholic families but seem particularly prevalent amongst Catholics, probably because of their belief in purgatory and the possibility of the dead communicating with the living
Brian Langston on August 02, 2016:
A great article again Polly packed with historical detail and great pictures. I learned a lot for this Hub that I didn't know about this wonderful house. It has been many years since Jen and I visited Coughton Court but we found it so atmospheric. Nice job!
Pollyanna Jones (author) from United Kingdom on July 31, 2016:
Thank you both, it is a beautiful stately home. There is more history associated with it, which I will write about some other time.
Chazz from New York on July 31, 2016:
Some of the best armchair traveling I've done! Thank you.
James Slaven from Indiana, USA on July 31, 2016:
This is wonderful, Polly! I wish the States had places with such long lasting history!