The Tabula Eliensis at Coughton Court

Detail of the Tabula Eliensis, a painted canvas dated 1596 in The Tower Room at Coughton Court, Warwickshire

Discovered in a roof-space in 1900 by Sir William Throckmorton, the Tabula Eliensis is a protest document against the treatment of Roman Catholics who remained loyal to the Pope. It commemorates those recusants (Catholics who refused to attend the Church of England) who were imprisoned by the government.

A controversial cloth

It was made in England in 1596 during the reign of Elizabeth I when religious tensions ran high with a series of plots to overthrow the Queen.
 
Families such as the Throckmortons who lived at Coughton were seen as potential enemies of the State.
 
 

Made in secrecy

It’s not clear who made it but it would have been made in great secrecy as their lives would have been at risk if they had been discovered.
 
It was probably made by the artists of a similar cloth in Ely Cathedral. The cloth is over nine feet wide and is formed by two pieces of canvas and the whole surface is painted in oil.
 
Its purpose was to be displayed during Mass and was probably carried from house to house by an itinerant Catholic priest.
 
 

Identifying victims and culprits

Near the top of the cloth is a representation of Ely Cathedral, a city where many Catholics were imprisoned.
 
After the inscriptions are a number of heads in roundels. Those in blue are kings and those in brown are monks and clerics. Towards the bottom of the tabula one can make out the heads of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth.
 
The seven panels at the bottom contain the shields of the families who were imprisoned by the government. The shield of Thomas Throckmorton is in the fifth panel.
 
 

See the protest up close

Go back in time to a state of unrest and gaze upon the Tabula Eliensis in the Tower Room.