Coughton Court, Warwickshire

Remember, remember the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder, treason

Should EVER be forgot…

Actually, I have read recently that there is a move afoot to gradually replace our traditional Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night with Hallowe’en which seems rather a shame. I shall digress briefly and reminisce about Bonfire Nights past. When I was a young girl November 5th was a low key family event. After tea, about 6 to 6.30pm, when dad was home from work, we would take our box of fireworks (bought from the special counter set up for that purpose at the local newsagent’s) into the back garden. The box would usually contain a Roman Candle, a Vesuvius, a Catherine Wheel, some Jumping Jacks, a couple of bangers and a couple of packets of sparklers. You can’t have a ‘firework party’ without sparklers. We never actually had a bonfire with a guy but I knew people who did! We would stand back the obligatory 6 paces whilst dad lit the blue touch paper and admire the whoosh and sparkle and sniff the smell of cordite in the air. Invariably, the Catherine Wheel would need a bit of encouragement to help it spin. for this reason it was usually the most disappointing. On Hallowe’en we would just fill a pail with water and duck for apples. Rather boring – but then we always had Guy Fawkes Night to look forward to a week later.

Early in August on my way to visit The Runner (younger son) I visited Coughton Court in Warwickshire where there is definitely no intention of letting the Gunpowder Plot be forgotten. It was to this house in 1605 that the news of the failure of The Gunpowder Plot was brought in the early hours of the 6th of November. The house has been in the hands of the Throckmorton family for 600 years.

“The mothers of two of the conspirators, Robert Catesby and Francis Tresham were the sisters Anne and Muriel Throckmorton, grandaughters of the original builder, Sir George Throckmorton, and sisters as well of the lord of the manor in 1605, Thomas Throckmorton. Two other conspirators, Robert and Thomas Wintour, were also great-grandchilden of Sir George Throckmorton.” Read more about the Gunpowder Plot and Coughton Court connections here :

The Gunpowder Plot

Coughton Court from the gardens behind the house.

Coughton Court is now run by the National Trust but the Throckmorton family appear to be very much involved still, especially with the gardens. As you can see it was a wet day when I visited so I didn’t get the chance to walk all round the extensive gardens. Instead I did a tour of the house, had tea in the restaurant, visited the shop and browsed in the secondhand bookshop.

It is possible to climb right to the top of the tower and view the surrounding countryside and the lovely gardens and try to imagine how it might have looked and felt if you were a member of the group of Catholics waiting for news of the success (or failure) of Guy Fawkes and his colleagues in their attempt to blow up the King and parliament in November 1605.

View from the tower at Coughton Court

There are several unrelated things that I particularly remember noticing as I toured the house.

  • The famous Newbury Coat is on display in the Hall. Read here about Sir John Throckmorton winning his coat in 1811. It was made in one day in June between sunrise and sunset from shearing the wool from the sheep to being tailored into a coat :
  • The Newbury Coat
  • There is an annual Gunpowder dinner or Fawkes Feast held here each year :
  • Fawkes Feast 2011
  • The abdication letter, written by Edward VIII, is displayed in the Hall. The letter was acquired by Geoffrey Throckmorton in the 1930s, when he was Clerk of the Journals at the House of Commons. It has been passed on through the family and can now be seen on display. I’ve been reading a lot about Wallis and Edward this year so this was a special surprise and thrill for me to come across on my visit to Coughton (pronounced Co-ton) Court.
By coincidence this very morning I have just read about this forthcoming exhibition at Compton Verney, also in Warwickshire :